MILLIONS of Unnecessary Opioids Prescribed by 5 Doctors

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Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, during a news conference on Thursday in Manhattan. He announced that five doctors had been charged with prescribing millions of pain pills to people who had no legitimate medical need for them.

It was not hard to tell when the doctor was in at the Staten Island office of Carl Anderson. Noisy crowds of people, some with visible signs of drug addiction, stood in long lines at all hours of the night, seeking prescriptions for Oxycodone pills, the authorities said Thursday.

Sometimes, the noise outside Dr. Anderson’s office got so loud that it prompted neighbors to call the police, and more than once ambulances were called to treat pill-seeking patients. Several of his patients overdosed and died, according to a federal indictment unsealed on Thursday.

Dr. Anderson, 57, was one of five doctors charged with taking more than $5 million in return for prescribing millions of oxycodone pills to purported patients who had no legitimate medical need for them, according to a series of indictments unsealed in federal court in Manhattan on Thursday.

Another of the doctors, Dante A. Cubangbang, 50, of Manhattan, and his nurse practitioner prescribed 3.3 million pills that were paid for by Medicare and Medicaid over a three-year period — more than twice as many pills as the next highest prescriber in the state, one indictment shows.

“Instead of caring for their patients, these doctors were drug dealers in white coats,” said Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a news conference on Thursday.

“These are people who’ve taken an oath to help their patients,” Mr. Berman said. “They should be on the first line of defense to combat this type of opioid abuse and instead they’re part of the problem.”

A total of 10 defendants, including a White Plains pharmacist, were charged in the case. They operated in Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx, as well as Long Island and Westchester, the authorities said.

Some of their operations were such well known sources of oxycodone prescriptions that they attracted customers, including drug dealers, from all over the northeast, said James J. Hunt, the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s New York office.

The case is the latest in a line of prosecutions being brought nationally against doctors, drug company executives and drug dealers. It highlights the ways opioids have been aggressively marketed and have contributed to a national epidemic that killed tens of thousands of Americans last year.

In March, five Manhattan doctors were indicted on charges they took bribes and kickbacks from Insys, the manufacturer of Subsys, a spray form of the highly addictive painkiller fentanyl.

At the news conference on Thursday, officials thanked each other’s agencies for their roles in the investigation, but the New York Police Commissioner, James P. O’Neill, went so far as to thank another group: the New Yorkers who had “called 911 to complain about noisy groups of pill seeking patients lingering outside one of these physician’s offices.”

“That’s how we keep making our way forward,” he said.

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