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Pittsburgh-area doctor blamed for patient's drug overdose

A physician who practiced in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area recently pleaded guilty to federal charges that he prescribed pain medication to patients who did not need them. The mother of one of his patients is accusing the doctor of causing the patient's death, though he was not charged in connection to that.

The criminal charges came after several Pittsburgh-area pharmacies became suspicious about some prescriptions written by the doctor. Besides deciding to stop honoring the prescriptions, some pharmacies contacted the Drug Enforcement Agency, which raided the doctor's office in February. However, the doctor was not arrested until March, when he was charged with illegal prescriptions of oxycodone and oxymorphone, both of which are painkillers. He was also charged with insurance fraud.

One of the doctor's patients, a 23-year-old man, died in his sleep in June 2011. His mother said that the doctor failed to ask the patient about his sleep apnea and other medical issues. However, the assistant U.S. Attorney did not charge the doctor in connection with the death.

When seeking to combat prescription drug abuse in Pittsburgh, police and prosecutors often target physicians. While some doctors may be deliberately taking advantage of their authority to write prescription for financial gain, those addicted to painkillers can quickly become adept at convincing physicians that they are in pain. But prosecutors may charge physicians for being the victim of this form of manipulation.

The physician in this case was sentenced to 11 years in three months in prison after pleading guilty. This shows that physicians facing painkiller-related drug charges could wind up with serious prison time and need vigorous legal defense.

Source: GoErie.com, "Pa. pain management doc pleads to drug charges," May 23, 2012

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