‘Our own medicine cabinets’ can be a gateway to addiction
Five doctors and a dentist in Kentucky are among dozens of health providers charged in a federal drug investigation involving alleged improper prescriptions for millions of pain pills, authorities announced Wednesday.
The dentist, whose office is in Floyd County, allegedly pulled patients’ teeth when the procedure was not justified, as part of a scheme to bill for unnecessary services.
One doctor in Louisville allegedly took more than $1 million in kickbacks to refer business to a particular pharmacy.
Among other health providers charged in the roundup, one doctor in Alabama allegedly allowed people, including prostitutes, to take drugs at his house, and another in Tennessee allegedly used his prescribing power to convince patients to have sex with him, basing his decisions on his “physical gratification” instead of patients’ medical needs, according to allegations in court.
The cases included enforcement actions against a total of 60 people in seven states, including 31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurse practitioners and seven other medical professionals, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
U.S. Attorney Robert M. Duncan Jr. said the people charged in the Eastern District of Kentucky, which covers the eastern half of the state, were:
▪ Mohammed A.H. Mazumder, a doctor who practices in the Prestonsburg area. The charges against Mazumder include health fraud and illegal distribution of drugs.
Mazumder allegedly pre-signed prescriptions for other clinic employees to give to patients and had employees perform jobs they were not qualified to do, such as medical evaluations.
Mazumder also had others call in prescriptions for patients, “falsely indicating” that he had made the decision to prescribe drugs, the indictment said.
▪ Scotty R. Akers and Serissa Collier, also known as Serissa Stamper. Akers, 47, a doctor, lives in Pikeville and Stamper, 32, is his girlfriend, according to Duncan’s office.
They are charged with conspiring to illegally distribute drugs and with illegally distributing drugs.
The allegations against them include that Akers signed prescriptions for pain pills for people who communicated with Collier through Facebook, and that Collier met the people in parking lots to deliver the drug orders in return for cash.
Collier typically collected $50 for the prescriptions, according to the indictment.
The indictment said that in 2016, Akers closed a pain clinic he operated, but after that started writing prescriptions from his home and Collier reached out to former patients through Facebook.
After the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure started investigating Akers in 2017, a consultant who reviewed his files said Akers’ pattern of prescribing “clearly was against the standards of practice, promoting opioid abuse that could lead to opioid overdose/diversion and death,” according to a court document.
Akers agreed to an indefinite suspension of his license in 2018.
▪ Denver Tackett, 64, a dentist in Floyd County, is charged with health fraud.
He allegedly wrote people prescriptions for painkillers called opioids when there was no legitimate medical reason; removed people’s teeth that didn’t need pulled; scheduled unnecessary follow-up visits; and billed for services he didn’t perform.
The indictment noted that some of the people whose teeth Tackett allegedly pulled unnecessarily were drug addicts.
▪ Sai Gutti, 60, who lives in Pikeville and had pain clinics in several locations in Eastern Kentucky, is charged with eight counts of health fraud for allegedly coming up with a scheme to bill Medicare, Medicaid and other providers for unnecessary drug screens on patients at pain clinics.
A Louisville doctor who had a pain clinic, Christopher Nelson, was charged with taking kickbacks to push business to a pharmacy in Florida that compounded medications, while a physician in Elizabethtown, Ijaz Mahmood, was charged with health fraud for allegedly having employees handle jobs they were not licensed to do when he wasn’t there.
Federal authorities investigated the cases under the umbrella of the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, formed to tackle the debilitating abuse of opioids in Kentucky and several other states.
“The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history, and Appalachia has suffered the consequences more than perhaps any other region,” Attorney General William P. Barr said at a news conference.