Tomah VA doctor 'Candy Man' agrees to surrender medical license
MADISON (AP) -- A former Tomah Veterans Administration Medical Center doctor accused of overprescribing opioids has agreed to surrender his medical license, documents released Wednesday show.
David Houlihan signed an agreement with the state Department of Safety and Professional Services on Jan. 10, the documents show. The state Medical Examining Board accepted the agreement on Wednesday, finalizing it.
Houlihan must surrender his license permanently and never reapply for one in Wisconsin. In exchange, DSPS agreed to drop its investigation into three complaints against him and not seek reimbursement for its investigative and attorney costs.
The deal means Houlihan will have to close the psychiatry practice he opened in La Crosse after he was fired from the Tomah VA in November 2015. His attorney, Frank Doherty, didn't immediately return a voicemail.
The agreement brings to a close one of the last lingering threads from a 2014 investigation into the Tomah VA which found doctors were overprescribing opiods, earning the facility the nickname "Candy Land." Some patients called Houlihan "Candy Man" because he so freely prescribed painkillers.
Months after the investigation closed, 35-year-old Marine veteran Jason Simcakoski died from "mixed drug toxicity" at the facility days after Houlihan added another opiate to the 14 drugs Simcakoski was already prescribed.
The Medical Examining Board in July found probable cause that Houlihan engaged in unprofessional conduct in his overall practices. The board had already determined there was probable cause that Houlihan was unprofessional and negligent in his care for Simcakoski.
The board suspended Houlihan's license in March after it learned he'd opened the psychiatry clinic but an administrative law judge reinstated it a month later, concluding the board didn't prove the suspension was necessary.
A VA report from 2015 concluded that patients at the Tomah facility were more likely than patients at other VA hospitals to receive high doses of painkillers. The report also said there was an atmosphere of fear among staff members that affected patient care.