PALMDALE – A former physician from Palmdale pleaded not guilty to charges alleging he illegally dispensed prescriptions for opioid painkillers and other often-abused substances during two-minute telemedicine sessions with a convicted narcotics trafficker and others from across the United States.
Raphael Malikian, 38, who resides in Palmdale and Llano and called his medical practice Happy Family Medicine, entered his plea on Monday, July 17, to updated federal charges, including allegations of having distributed codeine-laced cough syrup — known on the street as “purple drank” — to drug dealers who sold it in Texas and elsewhere, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. A trial date was previously set for Oct. 17 in downtown Los Angeles.
Malikian illegally distributed narcotics “while acting and intending to act outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose,” federal prosecutors wrote. The 18-count superseding indictment alleges Malikian wrote out prescriptions for such drugs as oxycodone, hydrocodone, alprazolam, promethazine and codeine to patients he had little contact with.
The DEA investigation was prompted by multiple reports in February 2020 of suspicious prescriptions issued by Malikian. The indictment alleges specific incidents in which Malikian prescribed controlled substances without a medical purpose after seven telemedicine consultations — including one conducted entirely via text message — starting in April 2020 and continuing through July 2020. None of the consultations involved any physical exam or diagnostic tests, and the appointments lasted as little as two minutes and 20 seconds, prosecutors allege.
The investigation included various undercover operations in which agents from the DEA and California Department of Justice posed as patients and received the prescriptions that form the basis of the indictment, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The DEA agent who authored the affidavit in the case concluded that Malikian “effectively sells prescriptions for controlled substances to patients upon request, and does so without obtaining a patient’s medical history or conducting a physical examination.”
Patient records maintained by Malikian allegedly showed that he saw patients across the United States and that about 43% of them shared common addresses, email addresses, “caregivers” or phone numbers with other patients, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
One of those patients was a convicted narcotics trafficker and another was stopped at Los Angeles International Airport while carrying more than $19,000 in cash and about 1,764 hydrocodone and alprazolam pills, the affidavit states.
Previous related story: Local doctor arrested on federal narcotics charges