The Maryland Attorney General announced on August 3, 2018 that a Maryland doctor has been sentenced to two, five-year concurrent prison sentences after pleading guilty to a charge of Medicaid fraud and a charge of conspiracy to commit Medicaid fraud. The former Maryland pill mill doctor was also ordered to pay $118,077 in restitution to the Maryland Medicaid Program and to forfeit certain seized assets for his role in a scheme to operate two pill mills in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County, Maryland that were advertised as wellness centers.
According to the alleged evidence, the Maryland doctor owned and/or operated two clinics that operated as pill mills, where, in exchange for cash, patients received unlawful prescriptions for large quantities of narcotics, including oxycodone, morphine, tramadol, and benzodiazepine. The doctor was indicted in August 2017 along with nine other individuals for their role in the scheme. Eight co-defendants pleaded guilty for participating in the pill mill scheme.
The owner of the two pill mill clinics was sentenced in June 2018 to the maximum 20 years incarceration under Maryland’s Drug Kingpin statute.
In announcing the doctor’s five year sentence, the Maryland Attorney General stated, ““Maryland is in the midst of an opioid epidemic, with lives being lost every day. [The Maryland doctor] defrauded the state and helped spread the disease of addiction. Today, with our federal and state partners, we shut him down and will continue to prosecute others who choose to operate as drug dealers masquerading as legitimate health practitioners.”
The Special Agent in Charge, Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, warned, “Today’s sentencing sends a clear message that health care fraud and diversion of these too often deadly drugs will not be tolerated. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to protect taxpayer funds and keep the public safe from these poisonous drugs.”
The Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, Baltimore District Office, added, “This investigation and successful prosecution shows that DEA and our local partners are committed to stopping the scourge of illegal opioid drug distribution, whether it is on the streets, or in the doctor’s office.”
The Maryland Department of Health reported on July 26, 2018 that during 2017, there were 2,282 drug and alcohol-related intoxication deaths in Maryland. Of those deaths, 2,009 were opioid-related. Fentanyl-related deaths continue to rise, increasing from 1,119 in 2016 to 1,594 in 2017. Cocaine-related deaths are also up from 464 in 2016 to 691 in 2017. The number of heroin-related and prescription drug-related deaths dropped slightly in 2017 when compared to 2016.
Preliminary data from the first three months of 2018 indicate that there were 653 unintentional drug and alcohol-related intoxication deaths in Maryland. There were 579 opioid-related deaths, 500 of which involved fentanyl. Heroin-related deaths fell from 291 during the same period in 2017 to 236 in 2018, while prescription drug-related deaths remained flat.
The data shows that fentanyl combined with cocaine or heroin is driving the increase in overall overdoses in 2017 and in the first quarter of 2018. There has been an increase of fentanyl mixed with cocaine, which is accounting for the increase in cocaine-related deaths. Nearly two thirds of cocaine-related deaths in 2017 also involved fentanyl.
After increasing each year exponentially since 2011, the number of fatal heroin overdoses in Maryland appears to be decreasing. Overdoses involving heroin have decreased since the third quarter of 2017. The percentage of all overdose deaths involving heroin has also decreased from 58 percent of all overdose deaths in 2016 to 36 percent of all overdose deaths in the first quarter of 2018.
Prescription drug-related deaths remained relatively flat from 2016 to 2017, dropping by five from 418 to 413. The number of prescription drug-related deaths remained the same in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the same time period in 2017 with 104.
In announcing the data, the Maryland Department of Health Secretary stated, “While Maryland is starting to see a decline in heroin-related deaths, fentanyl-related deaths continue to rise in staggering numbers. In the first three months of 2018 alone, we’ve seen 500 fentanyl-related deaths. We’re asking those with a substance use disorder to immediately seek treatment and for more individuals to learn how to use and carry naloxone.”
If you were harmed as a result of the misuse or abuse of medications that were prescribed for you in Maryland or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a medical malpractice lawyer in Maryland or in your state who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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