The United States Drug and Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently announced the arrest of a New York physician. The agency has accused the physician, an internal medicine and nephrology specialist licensed to practice since 1981, of criminal sale of prescriptions for controlled substances and homicide.
This first post in a series of two will delve into the allegations of criminal sale for a controlled substance. The follow up post will discuss how these allegations grew to also include homicide charges.
Criminal investigation: How did it start?
The allegations began when questions arose in Pennsylvania. The state's Attorney General's Office became suspicious when Pennsylvanians began filling prescriptions issued from the New York doctor in Pennsylvania. This triggered an investigation, which led to the seizure of records and computer equipment from the physician's New York office. Additional evidence was gathered to support the arrest of the physician.
Criminal prescription sale: What are the charges?
The DEA has accused this medical professional of 220 counts of Criminal Sale of a Prescription for a Controlled Substance. The government contends the criminal activity began in 2012. At this time, the agency states the physician's prescription practices began to change. The doctor allegedly began to issue oxycodone and alprazolam, also known as Xanax, for reasons outside of the "good faith" expected from a physician during the course of his or her practice of medicine. More specifically, the government contends the patient examinations were inadequate and the physician never properly verified patient complaints before providing prescriptions.
The government also contends the physician violated the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) opioid prescribing guidelines. These guidelines recommend the lowest effective dosage as set by the Morphine Milligram Equivalent (MME). Ultimately, these guidelines recommend avoiding a prescription over 90 MME per day. The agency states that this physician prescribed at least three patients with opioids that had an equivalent MME of 135 to 450 per day -- over four times the recommendation.
If the evidence supports these charges, the physician could face serious criminal penalties. This could include hefty monetary fines and potential imprisonment.
The next post will discuss the homicide charges as well as potential defenses to these allegations of criminal conduct.