Bozeman doctor sentenced, fined $150,000 for illegal drug dispensing at weight loss clinics

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Customer in pharmacy holding medicine bottle. Woman reading the label text about medical information or side effects in drug store. Patient shopping pills for migraine or flu. Vitamin or zinc tablets.

BILLINGS, MONTANA — A Bozeman doctor who admitted illegally dispensing appetite suppressants without seeing clients at clinics in Bozeman and Billings was sentenced today to three years of probation and fined $150,000, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson said.

Dr. Ronald M. Buss, 71, pleaded guilty on Oct. 1, 2020 to an information charging him with two counts of unlawful dispensing and distribution of controlled substances by registrant, a misdemeanor.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Cavan presided. Judge Cavan further prohibited Dr. Buss from personally dispensing or prescribing three weight loss drugs involved in the case for the duration of his probation.

Court documents filed by the prosecution said that in 2009, Buss became the medical director for Go Figure, a weight loss clinic in Bozeman, and a year later became the director for Go Figure in Billings. Buss is registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration and is authorized to dispense controlled substances.

Go Figure prescribed three types of weight loss drugs: Phendimetrazine and Benzphetamine, both Schedule III controlled substances, and Phentermine, a Schedule IV controlled substance.

In August 2016, the Billings DEA received information from a pharmacist that Go Figure was illegally dispensing these appetite suppressants from its clinic. In July 2016, Buss began pre-signing prescriptions for Go Figure staff to complete. An employee at the Billings clinic told investigators Buss pre-signed prescriptions for new and current clients, and that staff would choose one of the three drugs and complete the written prescription.

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At the Bozeman clinic an employee told law enforcement that she was a “consultant” who met with patients and prescribed controlled substances on blank, pre-signed prescriptions from Buss. Patients confirmed to DEA investigators that they rarely, if ever, met with Buss.

When interviewed, Buss admitted to investigators to pre-signing blank prescriptions and not seeing patients until after they started taking the drugs. Buss claimed that was only way to run the practice effectively.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Karla Painter prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.