NRI Pulse Staff Report
A northern Nevada cardiologist pleaded guilty today to distributing highly addictive prescription drugs Oxycodone and Hydrocodone to patients without a medical purpose, announced U.S. Attorney Dayle Elieson for the District of Nevada.
Dr. Devendra I. Patel, aka Devendrakumar I. Patel, 59, of Elko, who owns and operates Northeastern Nevada Cardiology, was indicted by a grand jury in December 2017. United States District Judge Larry R. Hicks accepted the guilty plea.
The investigation revealed Patel contributed to the opioid epidemic by unlawfully prescribing opioids and other prescription narcotics to patients for financial gain. As part of his plea, Patel admitted that, between September 2015 and February 2016, he prescribed Oxycodone (such as OxyContin) and Hydrocodone (such as Norco) to patients without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice. These prescriptions were in direct violation of his duty as a long-term licensed medical doctor. His license was suspended upon his arrest in December 2017. Patel’s prescribing practices allowed him to see a high volume of patients and easily prescribe and sell the opioids, while not addressing any legitimate medical concerns of his patients.
Sentencing is scheduled for March 18, 2019. The statutory maximum penalty is 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the FBI, DEA, Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Secret Service, the Elko Combined Narcotics Unit, Elko Police Department, Elko County Sheriff’s Office, and the Nevada Department of Public Safety. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kilby Macfadden and Sue Fahami are prosecuting the case.
According to the CDC, approximately 115 Americans die every day of an opioid-related overdose. In 2016, there were 408 opioid-related deaths in Nevada, according to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services. In 2016, Nevada’s per capita prescription rate for opioids was 87/100 residents. Nevada ranked as the sixth highest state for the number of milligrams of opioids distributed per adult, according to a DEA study. From 2010 to 2016, opioid-related hospitalizations have increased by 136% in emergency room encounters and 84% in in-patient admissions. During this time-period, 85% of all opioid-related deaths in Nevada were deemed accidents, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse Study for Nevada.
The Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection unit is a program that utilizes data to help combat the devastating opioid crisis. The District of Nevada was selected as one of 12 districts nationally to participate in the pilot program. The District of Nevada has assigned an experienced prosecutor that focuses solely on investigating and prosecuting health care fraud related to medical professionals who prescribe opioids, that unlawfully divert of dispense prescription opioids for illegitimate purposes.
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