WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- An estimated 8.5 million oxycodone pills have circulated New York due to the greediness of 5 doctors who illegally prescribed these to their patients.
- Dubbed as ‘licensed drug dealers’, one charged pharmacist said “Oxy pays the bills.”
- The accused doctors have prescribed these pills to patients without any physical exams.
Five “drug dealers in white coats” flooded New York with more than 8.5 million illegal prescriptions of oxycodone pills. Several deaths and overdose cases have resulted, reports Manhattan federal prosecutors.
“We are in the middle of an opioid epidemic of epic proportions,” says U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman during a news conference.
He added that greed was the main reason why these doctors have done it. According to Marc Klein, a pharmacist who was among those charged, he dubbed himself and his employers as “licensed drug dealers”, adding that Oxy pays the bills.
The most prolific of the five is Dr. Dante Cubangbang who, for the past 6 years prescribed 4.6 million oxycodone pills. Operating out of his Queens pain clinic, a total of $5.7 million in cash was generated from dispensing 6.2 million pills equivalent to 180 kilograms of pure oxycodone, according to authorities.
DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Jamie Hunt likened Cubangbang to a bank robber due to his use of a money counter for the tons of cash he was amassing.
The NY Office of Professional Medical Conduct of the Health Department placed Cubangbang on probation in May 2015 for the failure of maintaining accurate records and checking the medical histories of his patients, especially prior opiate treatments. In March 2018, he was charged with five counts of probation violation, reports the Health Department.
Also charged were Cubangbang’s three associates: John Gargan, a nurse who prescribed 1.6M oxycodone pills, Michael Kellerman the office manager, and Loran Piquant, a “crew chief” who allegedly bought the pills for resale.
Prosecutors from the Southern District of NY also reported that Dr. Carl Anderson sold almost a million Oxy pills since 2006. He was reportedly seeing patients without appointments at various schedules, requiring them to pay hundreds for each prescription.
Arthur Grande, a street dealer was also charged for suspicion of buying pills in volume from Anderson and peddling it on the streets.
Manhattan psychiatrist Anthony Pietropinto whose office is in upscale 5th Avenue caused one case of death from an overdose from prescribing more than 12,000 pills to just one patient between October 2013 and May 2018. Surprisingly, he filed for bankruptcy in 2015 despite a $50 to $100 charge per visit.
With Bronx and Westchester offices, endocrinologist Nadem Sayegh prescribed over 50,000 oxycodone pills. Reports say that as payment from patients, he received over $100,000 in cash, paid trips, and luxury gifts. Sayegh’s attorney was not available for comments.
Lastly, Staten Island doctor Nkanga Nkanga was charged for dispensing more than 500,000 oxycodone pills, and thousands of other illegal substances like buprenorphine and alprazolam. He would see his patients for just a few minutes without even checking if they’re in pain. Marc Klein, a pharmacist who investigators included in the probe, delivered 10,000 oxycodone pills from his pharmacy and received cash, free meals and paid vacation trips in return.