6 years later, 5 NYC doctors charged with taking fentanyl prescription kickbacks

Summary and Analysis…

This article highlights two problems associated with making opioids more available in communities — as is being requested by backers of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). By definition MAT involves dispensing intoxicating, addictive drugs. The purpose is to replace heroin and other drugs of abuse but are MAT drugs are themselves addictive and subject to abuse.

Communities contemplating instituting or increasing MAT programs should include in their risk/reward analysis, as well as staffing plans, ways to address:

  1. Doctors who violate the rules to dispense opioids dangerously and
  2. The lag between the start of illegal behavior and the time when law enforcement catches up to it. In the cases described in this article — the alleged illegal behavior began in 2012 and carried on for a four-year stretch. We are now in 2018, six years after the alleged problem began — a significant quantity of fentanyl could have made its way into the community in that time period.

Excerpted from CBS News

NEW YORK — Five New York City doctors were arrested Friday on charges that they accepted bribes and kickbacks from an Arizona-based pharmaceutical company to prescribe large volumes of a highly addictive painkiller. Prosecutors say the doctors, four men and a woman, collected tens of thousands of dollars working for the company’s “Speakers Bureau” over a four-year stretch beginning in August 2012. The company, Insys Therapeutics Inc., hasn’t commented.

They pleaded not guilty in Manhattan federal court to an unsealed indictment charging them with conspiracy, among other charges.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said the doctors reneged on their oath as doctors to put the care of their patients above all else. He said they accepted bribes in the form of speaking fees in exchange for prescribing millions of dollars’ worth of a potent fentanyl-based spray that is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and used their patients as an “instrument for profit.”

William F. Sweeney Jr., head of New York’s FBI office, said the doctors “were convinced to push aside their ethical obligations and prescribe a drug for profit to patients who turned to them for help.”

He said doctors and medical professionals everywhere should be reminded “that the health and safety of their patients is not for sale.”