A Wayne psychiatrist who was arrested for allegedly writing illegal prescriptions for oxycodone from her home office was released on $1 million bail after an appearance in federal court Tuesday, according to a special agent from the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Dr. Priscilla Ilem, 84, of Alps Road was arrested early Tuesday after a two-month investigation involving Wayne police and the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency. She was charged with distribution of prescription drugs for allegedly writing 291 prescriptions for 238 patients during June and July, DEA special agent Douglas Collier said Tuesday.
Ilem appeared later in the day before U.S. Magistrate Patty Schwartz in Newark, where she was charged and released on $1 million bail. She also surrendered all prescription pads in her possession, Collier said.
The criminal complaint against Ilem - provided to Wayne Patch by the DEA - states she unlawfully prescribed the pain-killer oxycodone to confidential sources working with the DEA. After office visits that lasted an average of just 10 minutes, and which involved no physical examination or testing, Ilem charged a cash fee of $200 and provided a prescription slip for drugs, the complaint states.
The charges Tuesday weren't the first time Ilem faced questions from authorities. In 2001, according to the complaint, she was under investigation for a variety of regulatory offenses, including post-dating a prescription, allegedly distributing controlled substances, keeping improper records, failing to properly label and dispose of drugs, and prescribing medication to a patient without an exam. In 2007, the New Jersey Medical Board issued a formal reprimand and required that she take a record-keeping course.
Police indicated Ilem was apparently aware she was under suspicion over the past few months. She called Wayne police on Aug. 9, complaining that "she was very concerned that someone was using her name to write prescriptions," according to Collier, who added that Ilem made the call in an attempt to cover her tracks.
Ultimately, Ilem "admitted that what she had done was wrong, because she is a psychiatrist, not a pain management doctor," according to the complaint.
According to a public listing on , Ilem, a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines, "owns and operates a private psychiatric practice" where "she supports patients speaking English and Tagalog." Her license was due to expire in 2013.
Collier said the agency has set up a special task force dedicated to doctors who prescribe drugs outside their normal area of expertise.
"Whether you are 84 or 104," Collier said, "a doctor takes an oath to do the right thing by their patients, and we won't tolerate these doctors hiding behind their white lab coats and stethoscopes."
When asked about clients who may have received legitimate care from Ilem, Collier said the goal was to prevent the distribution of illegal pharmaceuticals, so those patients had little reason to be concerned.
"Oxycodone is an opiate," he said. "And it is these pills that are made available to adolescents, and these get them into heroin. And so it's important that we stop it at the source."