Health & Medicine

Tenn. doctors indicted for drug-related crimes

Two Nashville doctors improperly wrote prescriptions for pain pills and other narcotics that fueled illegal drug trafficking in Harlan County, a grand jury has charged.

The grand jury indicted Visu Vilvarajah and Mireille Lalanne on three counts each of being involved in organized crime and one count each of second-degree assault and wanton endangerment, said Harlan County Sheriff Marvin Lipfird.

Local and federal officers arrested the two at their office Wednesday. Lalanne is Vilvarajah's ex-wife, but the two still practice together, Lipfird said.

It's unclear when the two will be brought to Kentucky. The attorney for Vilvarajah and Lalanne, who are jailed in Nashville, did not return a telephone call Thursday.

With large numbers of Harlan County residents driving six hours to get a prescription, it's not logical that the doctors didn't know there was a problem, Lipfird said.

The Web site for a practice called Tennessee Professional Associates lists Lalanne as medical director and Vilvarajah as medical associate. Services at the clinic include pain management and weight-loss treatment, according to the site.

The Web site says patients must provide a driver's license, address and phone number to register, and says people with "filthy attire, or under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol" won't be allowed in. The site says the practice strictly adheres to state and federal guidelines on treatment and prescribing. It also says payments are due at the time of service in cash, cashier's check, money order or credit card.

Lipfird said his office started investigating Vilvarajah and Lalanne after seeing their names numerous times on pill bottles that officers found during drug searches.

The number of Harlan County residents who went to the doctors was around 200, Lipfird said. According to the sheriff, many then allegedly abused or sold the drugs, which included OxyContin, methadone and Xanax.

The three charges of being involved in organized crime mean the doctors allegedly helped members of three different syndicates — groups of five or more drug traffickers — get drugs.

The assault and endangerment charges stem from the two doctors prescribing drugs to an obviously pregnant woman whose baby was born addicted, Lipfird said.

The case is an example of what Kentucky authorities say has been a growing trend in recent years — people going out of state to get prescriptions for pills, then bringing the drugs home to sell and abuse.