Supreme Court throws out conviction of second Mobile doc in ‘pill mill’ case

Drs. John P. Couch, left, and Xiulu Ruan ran a pain clinic in Mobile, Alabama.
Drs. John P. Couch, left, and Xiulu Ruan ran a pain clinic in Mobile, Alabama.
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 6:15 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday threw out the conviction of a Mobile doctor convicted of over-prescribing painkillers.

The case now heads to the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which likely will send the case against Dr. John Patrick Couch back to Mobile. The justices cited their ruling this week in favor of Couch’s medical partner, Dr. Xiulu Ruan.

The court also threw out the convictions of doctors in three similar cases across the country.

It is unclear what will happen now. Prosecutors have the option of trying Couch and Ruan again but would have to do so under a harder-to prove standard laid out by the high court on Tuesday. Prosecutors must prove not only that the doctors acted outside the course of usual practice but “knowingly or intentionally” violated that standard.

Federal agents raided the defendants’ practice, Physicians’ Pain Specialists of Alabama, in 2015, and authorities called it a “pill mill.” Prosecutors argued during the trial that the doctors prescribed large amounts of fentanyl and other drugs without a medically valid reason.

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