NORTH WILDWOOD - The state Board of Medical Examiners revoked a local physician's license indefinitely for falsifying reports to prescribe pain pills to undercover officers posing as patients, the state Attorney General's Office said Thursday.
Dr. John G. Costino, Jr. also must pay $10,000 in civil penalties and reimburse the state for the cost of its investigation, according to the Attorney General's Office.
The board's decision to revoke Costino's license followed a hearing before an administrative law judge and mirrored the judge's recommendations, the office said.
"Costino was found to have created false diagnoses to justify his prescribing of Percocet to undercover investigators who posed as patients during nine office visits in 2007 and for billing to medical insurance companies," according to a state press release from the Attorney General's Office. "During their visits, the undercover investigators told Costino that they were experiencing no pain but wanted a medication to help them relax."
The state medical board temporarily suspended Costino's license in December of 2007, prohibiting him from seeing patients.
The Board of Medical Examiners' decision this week means Costino cannot apply to reinstate his license for five years.
Costino, who specialized in pain management, geriatric medicine and the treatment of heroin addictions with the drug Suboxone, has an office on Surf Avenue in North Wildwood.
He could not be reached late Thursday afternoon.
A recording on his office phone says, "the office continues to have issues with the Board of Medical Examiners of the state of New Jersey" and suggests callers can contact the board in Trenton to support Costino.
Costino had a loyal patient base that protested and held rallies in front of his office in support of the doctor. Costino was a physician in Cape May County for more than 30 years.
"The board's order of revocation is appropriate, as Dr. Costino is a threat to the health, safety and welfare of the public," Attorney General Anne Milgram said in a statement. "Dr. Costino had no medical justification for writing these prescriptions, but he did so anyway."
"Dr. Costino's reckless and unprofessional actions show how the misuse of powerful painkillers can occur," said David Szuchman, the director of the state's Division of Consumer Affairs, in a statement released by the division. "His actions demonstrated a flagrant disregard of board rules and regulations and for the safety of his patients."
Costino was arrested in September 2007 after what the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office said was a long-term investigation into insurance fraud and the illegal distribution of prescription drugs.
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