Grand jury indicts Dr. Richard N. Barney of Janesville on prescription drug charges

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Gazette staff
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

MADISON--A federal grand jury indicted a Janesville doctor Wednesday, alleging he fraudulently used a hospital vending machine to get prescription painkillers last year.

Dr. Richard N. Barney, 53, Janesville, is facing 15 counts of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Madison.

Barney acquired Percocet by sending prescriptions to an InstyMeds machine at Beloit Memorial Hospital in the names of 15 patients without the patients' knowledge between January and October of 2012, authorities said.

The InstyMeds machine, which is about the size of a soda vending machine, dispenses medication to patients who have obtained a patient drug voucher from a prescribing physician. Each voucher has a number that is entered into the machine, along with the patient's personal code, for the drugs to be dispensed, according to the news release.

Barney was a physician at Beloit Memorial for 18 years, from 1995 until his resignation in April 2013, Beloit Memorial spokeswoman Sarah Starmer said. Barney was a physician with Southern Wisconsin Emergency Associates, she said.

The alleged fraud was discovered by Beloit Memorial Hospital staff in early April, Starmer said, and the hospital alerted law enforcement, which began an investigation.

“During that time, we also did accept his resignation,” she said.

A hospital review of patient issues and records revealed an “absolute determination no patients were harmed, and patient safety was not compromised,” she said.

Starmer said it was “very sad” to hear the news of the indictment.

“He served our hospital and community well, and he was very involved in great things in our community,” she said.

Barney is the associate medical director of the Mercy Regional EMS Training Center, Mercy Vice President Barb Bortner said. Bortner said Barney was hired earlier this year, but he didn't actively start working until this month.

In an April story for The Gazette, Barney was referred to as Mercy's associate medical director.

Bortner said she could not comment on when Mercy became aware of the indictment or if Mercy was involved in the investigation.

Mercy also has InstyMeds-type machines at its emergency locations, Bortner said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Altman, who is prosecutor for the case, said the prescription machines are relatively new technology, and she was unaware of any other cases in federal court for the Western District of Wisconsin involving them.

ATM-style prescription dispensing machines such as InstyMeds were designed to address the shortage of pharmacists and drug stores closing in small towns.

The point-of-sale machine is generally used by outpatients. The machines can be located in hospital lobbies, where they are accessible 24 hours a day.

Barney was first licensed as a physician in Wisconsin in April 1989, and his license remains valid until Oct. 31, according to state Department of Public Safety and Professional Services website.

In the early-2000s he served as the state EMS medical director, according to Gazette archives.

Barney is not in custody and no court dates had been set in the case of as Wednesday afternoon.

If convicted, Barney faces a maximum penalty of four years in federal prison on each count. The charges are the result of an investigation by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Roscoe, Ill., police; and Beloit police, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Beloit police Capt. Daniel Risse, public information officer for the department, declined to comment, referring questions to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Altman declined to answer any questions about Barney's case beyond what was in the press release.

According to the drugs.com website, Percocet contains acetaminophen and oxycodone and is administered to relieve modern to severe pain. Oxycodone is in a group of drugs called opioid pain relievers, and may be habit forming. Acetaminophen increases the effects of oxycodone.

--Reporters Gina Duwe and Nico Savidge, and freelance writer Kevin Murphy contributed to this story.

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