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Doctor's license suspended after patient's death

The Florida Board of Medicine says the Pinellas physician excessively medicated the patient.

WILLIAM R. LEVESQUE
Published June 5, 2004

TAMPA - The Florida Board of Medicine suspended the medical license of a St. Petersburg physician for two years Friday after she was accused of excessively medicating a patient who later died of an overdose.

Dr. Zandrina Alexander, 55, also had been accused by the state of failing to properly document her care of patients, drug dosing errors and gross malpractice.

The board reprimanded Alexander, ordered her to pay $14,571 for the cost of prosecuting her within five years of her licensing being reinstated and required she attend classes on proper patient care.

Alexander, whose medical license was suspended on an emergency basis in July 2003, receives credit toward the two-year suspension for the time she has already been suspended.

Alexander denied all the allegations. But she failed to respond to the Florida Department of Health recently when it moved to hold a hearing on the allegations. So she lost her right to contest the charges before the board.

Alexander, whose privileges at St. Petersburg General Hospital were revoked by a peer review committee in 2002, declined to comment after Friday's hearing.

She told the board that she had received little information from the state since her suspension because she closed her practice. But board members said information about the case had been sent to her home.

Alexander, who said her practice involved a heavy load of indigent patients who did not pay her, said she has no money and has been unable to hire an attorney to contest the charges.

"A lot of my patients don't have insurance, not even Medicaid," Alexander said. "I take care of a lot of them free of charge. . . . I didn't go into medicine to become a millionaire. I don't make a lot of money. I make enough to survive."

But the board declined a request to continue proceedings to allow Alexander time she said she needs to put together a defense.

A Department of Health administrative complaint said Alexander began treating the patient who overdosed in January 2001. The patient had been in a car crash. The doctor prescribed the painkiller OxyContin for a back injury.

Over much of the next year, Alexander repeatedly prescribed painkillers for the patient, including drugs containing hydrocodone, morphine and oxycodone, the complaint said. At times, the doctor prescribed painkillers even when the patient was in no apparent distress, the complaint said.

The day before the unidentified patient died of the painkiller hydrocodone, Alexander provided a prescription for the drug. Other physicians also had provided prescriptions for drugs containing hydrocodone in the weeks before the patient died.

In action against other area doctors, the board accepted or revised agreements that:

Reprimanded New Port Richey physician James R. Byrd Jr., fined him $1,000 and ordered him to pay costs for failing to document that he informed a patient or supervisor about the results of a CAT-scan before discharging the patient.

Reprimanded Oldsmar physician Larry E. Stevens, fined him $7,500, ordered him to pay costs and ordered additional training for failing to properly followup with a gynecologist to investigate an abnormal Pap smear test for a patient who later died of cervical cancer.

The board also said the doctor, who recommended the patient see a gynecologist and assumed she was under such a doctor's care, also failed to order tests to help assess the patient's condition.

Issued a letter of concern for Tampa physician Thomas Marshall Taylor, fined him $5,000, ordered him to pay costs, perform 50 hours of community service and ordered him to undergo additional training. The doctor was accused of improperly prescribing drugs, including one that contained oxycodone, to a medical student shadowing him in his practice.

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