Category Archives: Crime

N.Y. prosecutor blames doctors for painkiller epidemic

A New York prosecutor is pointing the finger of blame at doctors for the prescription drug and heroin epidemic that has devastated the region, saying they overprescribed powerful painkillers – sometimes to known addicts, the Wall Street Journal reports. Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said a grand jury report found that between 2001 and 2011, the percentage of drug-sale arrests related to prescription drugs in Suffolk increased to 17.4% from 1.5%, while intoxicated driving incidents linked to prescription drugs rose to 48% last year, up from 15% in 2001, according to the WSJ.

The grand jury was convened last year following the quadruple homicide that occurred at a Medford, N.Y. pharmacy.

New York has suffered brutally at the hands of the prescription drug addiction epidemic. Prescriptions for oxycodone in New York rose by 82 percent from 2007 to 2010, according to a recent report issued by the state’s attorney general. Almost 22.5 million prescriptions for all types of narcotic painkillers were written in the state in 2010, with an especially high quantity of prescriptions being written on Staten Island and in large areas of Suffolk County, the report says.

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Cardinal settles with DEA over painkiller distribution

Cardinal Health has reached a deal with the Drug Enforcement Administration that will block one of its Florida facilities from distributing controlled substances for two years. The company also said it will take steps to improve anti-diversion procedures designed to prevent prescription drugs from being abused.

Earlier this year, the DEA suspended Cardinal’s license after finding that the company – which is one of the nation’s largest distributors of pharmaceuticals – sold excessive amounts of oxycodone to four Florida pharmacies. (The suspension related only to the company’s license to distribute controlled substances from its Lakeland, Fla. facility, which the DEA claims shipped 50 times as much oxycodone to its top four customers than it has shipped to its other Florida retail customers.)

Cardinal challenged the suspension in federal court, and both the company and the DEA filed documents that gave an inside look into how prescription painkillers have flooded the black market.

Cardinal was initially granted a temporary restraining order blocking the suspension after convincing a judge that the move would disrupt drug shipments to more than 2,500 pharmacy customers in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The company said it has “robust controls and performs careful due diligence,” noting that in the past four years, it has stopped shipping controlled medicines to more than 350 pharmacies it determined posed an unreasonable risk of diversion, including 160 in Florida alone.

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Calif. doctor facing murder charges in wake of pill overdoses

A California doctor known as “Dr. Feelgood” has been charged with murder and 21 other felony counts in connection with the prescription drug overdose deaths of three of her patients. Dr. Hsiu-Ying “Lisa” Tseng, an osteopathic physician from Rowland Heights, Calif., wrote more than 27,000 prescriptions over a three-year period starting in January 2007 – an average of 25 a day.

According to Los Angeles County prosecutors, Tseng opened a storefront medical office in Rowland Heights in 2005. The Drug Enforcement Administration launched an investigation in 2008 after a pharmacy reported overlapping customers.

Tseng has been charged with murder in the deaths of Vu Nguyen, 29, of Lake Forest, Calif. on March 2, 2009; Steven Ogle, 25, of Palm Desert, Calif., on April 9, 2009; and Joseph Rovero III, 21, an Arizona State University student from San Ramon, Calif. on Dec. 18, 2009. All were patients of Tseng, who prescribed a myriad of drugs for the three young men.

Tseng, who is being held on $3 million bail, faces a possible maximum state prison term of 45 years to life. She has previously denied any wrongdoing.

Read more about Tseng here.

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Cardinal loses round in DEA painkiller distribution fight

A federal judge has ruled that the Drug Enforcement Administration can block Cardinal Health from distributing controlled substances from one of its Florida facilities. Earlier this month, the DEA suspended Cardinal’s license after finding that the company – which is one of the nation’s largest distributors of pharmaceuticals – sold excessive amounts of oxycodone to four Florida pharmacies. (The suspension relates only to the company’s license to distribute controlled substances from its Lakeland, Fla. facility, which the DEA claims shipped 50 times as much oxycodone to its top four customers than it has shipped to its other Florida retail customers.)

Cardinal challenged the suspension in federal court, and both the company and the DEA filed documents that give an inside look into how prescription painkillers have flooded the black market.

Cardinal was granted a temporary restraining order blocking the suspension after convincing a different judge that the move would disrupt drug shipments to more than 2,500 pharmacy customers in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The company said it has “robust controls and performs careful due diligence,” noting that in the past four years, it has stopped shipping controlled medicines to more than 350 pharmacies it determined posed an unreasonable risk of diversion, including 160 in Florida alone.

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DEA, Cardinal Health face off over painkiller sales

Earlier this month, the Drug Enforcement Administration suspended Cardinal Health’s license to distribute controlled substances, accusing the company – which is one of the nation’s largest distributors of pharmaceuticals – of selling excessive amounts of oxycodone to four Florida pharmacies. (The suspension relates only to the company’s license to distribute controlled substances from its Lakeland, Fla. facility, which the DEA claims shipped 50 times as much oxycodone to its top four customers than it has shipped to its other Florida retail customers.) Cardinal has challenged the suspension in federal court, and both the company and the DEA recently filed documents that give an inside look into how prescription painkillers have flooded the black market.

The DEA alleges that Cardinal knew or should have known that the pharmacies were inappropriately filling prescriptions issued by DEA-licensed physicians for non-medical reasons.

Meanwhile, Cardinal has been granted a temporary restraining order blocking the suspension after convincing a judge that the move would disrupt drug shipments to more than 2,500 pharmacy customers in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The company says it has “robust controls and performs careful due diligence,” noting that in the past four years, it has stopped shipping controlled medicines to more than 350 pharmacies it determined posed an unreasonable risk of diversion, including 160 in Florida alone.

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The Oxy King of Marin County: Profile of a Prolific Dealer

In California, prescription drug addiction is especially rampant among teens and young adults in middle- and upper-class areas like Marin County. In the latest issue of SF Weekly, Oxy Watchdog founder Erin Marie Daly profiles one major OxyContin dealer who is now behind bars but claims he did nothing wrong.

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In N.Y., Oxy prescriptions skyrocket: report

Prescriptions for oxycodone in New York rose by 82 percent from 2007 to 2010, according to a new report issued by the state’s attorney general. Almost 22.5 million prescriptions for all types of narcotic painkillers were written in the state in 2010, with an especially high quantity of prescriptions being written on Staten Island and in large areas of Suffolk County, the report says.

New York has suffered brutally at the hands of the prescription drug addiction epidemic. Earlier in January, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called on the DEA to share data collected on pharmaceutical and prescription drug theft with local law enforcement. That move came in the wake of the latest deadly pharmacy robbery on New Year’s Eve in Seaford, N.Y. and in the face of the quadruple homicide that occurred at a Medford, N.Y. pharmacy last year.

Read more about New York’s painkiller addiction troubles here and here.

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Lawmaker appeals to DEA in wake of pharmacy robberies

Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is calling for beefed up security measures in order to curb the growing number of pharmacy thefts by people desperate to get their hands on prescription painkillers like Oxycontin. The lawmaker wants the DEA to share data collected on pharmaceutical and prescription drug theft with local law enforcement, and has put forth a bill that would increase maximum sentences for pharmacy-related crimes to 20 years per offense. The move comes in the wake of the latest deadly pharmacy robbery on New Year’s Eve in Seaford, N.Y. and in the face of the quadruple homicide that occurred at a Medford, N.Y. pharmacy last year.

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Former Purdue execs fight court-ordered ban

Three former executives of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma are trying to convince a federal appeals court to throw out a ruling debarring them from working with any government-financed health programs. Former general counsel Howard Udell, former CEO Michael Friedman, and former chief medical officer Paul Goldenheim were tried under a statute that holds corporate officers liable for the misconduct of their company, even if there was no proof of misconduct on their part for failing to prevent, detect or correct federal drug violations. Oral arguments are scheduled for Dec. 6 in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, according to this article.

The criminal misdemeanor charges stem from a 2007 case in which Purdue was found to misrepresent the addictive nature of OxyContin and was fined $634.5 million. The executives pled guilty, and though they didn’t face any jail time, they were excluded from working at corporations with government contracts, such as Medicare, for 12 years. The trio was held strictly liable as “responsible corporate officers” for the improper promotion of OxyContin because they had responsibility and authority to prevent the violation, but failed to do so. Now, they want the appeals court to either strike down or reduce the exclusion, arguing that they were guilty of “omissions, not acts” – in essence, they were found to be at fault due to their status, not their conduct, the article says. The government, on the other hand, claims Purdue caused huge financial losses to Medicaid programs that bought OxyContin based on the company’s false claims.

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Oxy robberies turning Del. pharmacies into ‘war zones’

There have been 99 robberies or attempted robberies of drugstores or their customers in Delaware since January 2009 by painkiller addicts, causing pharmacists in the state to question the safety of their profession, according to this article. The 23-year-old addict profiled in the story, Phil Maconi, is now serving a four-year sentence after pleading guilty to two such robberies, which he says he committed in a desperate attempt to ward off withdrawal symptoms. And the pharmacists involved in the heists say they now fear for their safety, the article says.

In a separate article, Maconi says many of the state’s pain management doctors are willing to prescribe vast amounts of powerful narcotics to anyone who walks in their door, with devastating consequences: prescription drug abuse in Delaware has killed someone, on average, every other day over the last two years, that article says. (For the perspective of physicians who specialize in treating chronic pain and have to decide whether their patients have a medical need for the drugs, go here.)

Read more about pharmacy robberies here.

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