Five New York doctors were indicted on Thursday for allegedly issuing unnecessary prescriptions for more than 8.5 million opioid pills from "drug mills," resulting in deaths overdoses, NBC News reported.
Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said this week that the charges come at a time when the nation is gripped by an opioid epidemic “of epic proportions.”
The National Institute of Drug Abuse estimated that more than 115 people die after overdosing on opioids each day and that prescriptions were costing the U.S. $78.5 billion a year.
Considering these figures, Berman said the five indicted doctors “were drug dealers in white coats” who issued out prescriptions out of “greed,” according to NBC News.
The most prolific case was of Dr. Dante Cubangbang, who allegedly issued 4.6 million oxycodone pills over six years.
He was previously charged for violating a probation that arose after authorities found him guilty of neglecting to check his patient’s medical histories and failing to keep accurate records.
Cubangbang operated with three associates, who were all charged.
Among them was nurse John Gargan, who prescribed 1.6 million oxycodone pills, as well as office manager Michael Kellerman and their “crew chief” Loran Piquant, NBC reported.
Federal prosecutors also charged Dr. Carl Anderson, who allegedly distributed close to one million oxycodone pills over 12 years and is believed to have handed mass quantities of pills to Arthur Grande, who was charged as a suspected street dealer.
According to The New York Times, several of Anderson’s patients overdosed and died.
Manhattan psychiatrist Anthony Pietropinto is alleged to have been responsible for issuing prescriptions for thousands of pills that lead to at least one overdose death.
“These are people who’ve taken an oath to help their patients,” Berman said, according to the Times. “They should be on the first line of defense to combat this type of opioid abuse and instead they’re part of the problem.”
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