A physician at the National Institutes of Health, who attracted publicity last year by launching an innovative medical house-call service for handicapped and elderly patients, was arrested yesterday and charged with selling prescriptions for pain-killing narcotics to federal undercover agents.
A federal indictment charged Dr. George C. Daniel of Potomac with selling 11 prescriptions for a total of 330 tablets of the drugs Dilaudid, Percodan and Demerol. Undercover agents paid $100 each for the prescriptions in recent meetings with Daniel at his home and at a Metro parking lot near Bethesda, according to the indictment issued last week by a grand jury in Baltimore and unsealed yesterday.
Daniel, an endocrinologist nearing the end of a three-year research fellowship at NIH, was arrested by Drug Enforcement Administration agents at 11610 Milbern Dr. DEA spokesman Bob O'Leary said the house serves as the headquarters of Geodan Medical House Calls Inc., the business Daniel incorporated in May 1986.
In interviews with The Washington Post and the Montgomery Journal last summer, Daniel spoke of a return to the old-fashioned house call. He said he had signed up about 60 physicians -- most of them retired or moonlighting from hospital or research jobs -- to treat primarly handicapped and elderly patients who were to be charged according to their incomes. Daniel said the service, which he advertised heavily, was to begin last fall in the Washington-Baltimore area.
Maryland state records show that Geodan is still an active corporation.
In Baltimore, Assistant U.S. Attorney Harvey Eisenberg said DEA agents seized business records at Daniel's home yesterday and planned a detailed review of the Geodan company's activity in the last year. A federal magistrate in Baltimore ordered Daniel held without bond, pending a hearing tomorrow.
O'Leary said Daniel sold undercover agents six prescriptions for Dilaudid, four for Percodan and one for Demerol at meetings Sept. 15, Sept. 25, Oct. 8 and Oct. 30. Each prescription was for 30 tablets, he said.
Dilaudid, the brand name for the narcotic hydromorphone, is a pain-killer nearly 10 times as potent as morphine, O'Leary said. In a drugstore, he said, a prescription for 30 tablets costs about $11. But in illegal street deals, he said, the tablets sell for as much as $50 each.
Police and public health officials in the District said 13 persons died in a 16-day period of September from a mixture of Dilaudid and cocaine.
O'Leary said Percodan and Demerol are brand names for pain-killing drugs that are less potent and less expensive than Dilaudid.
In the newspaper interviews last year, Daniel said he was 32 years old, a New York native and a graduate of Yale Medical School. In searching his home yesterday, however, agents found a birth certificate from the Caribbean island of Dominica, a British passport and other documents with various dates of birth between 1948 and 1952, O'Leary said.
Because of the confusion over Daniel's background, he said, Magistrate Paul Rosenberg agreed to order him held in the Baltimore City Jail pending the bond hearing, while DEA agents try to determine his citizenship.
Dr. Arthur Levine, scientific director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the NIH, said Daniel's fellowship paid between $17,000 and $27,000 a year. He would not be more specific, nor disclose information from Daniel's resume.
If convicted, Daniel could face up to 20 years in federal prison for each of 11 counts of attempting to dispense a controlled substance illegally.