An Indian-American cardiologist in Nevada has been arrested on charges of unlawful distribution of prescription opioids and healthcare fraud.
The accused, Dr Devendra Patel, today appeared in a federal court in Reno city of Nevada. He was charged with 36 counts of distribution of controlled substances such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, and three counts of health care fraud, said reports.
The statutory maximum penalties for both distribution of a controlled substance and healthcare fraud is 10 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors alleged that from May 2014 to September 2017, Patel routinely prescribed fentanyl, hydrocodone, and oxycodone for his patients without a legitimate medical purpose and that he fraudulently billed Medicare and Medicaid for medical tests that he did not perform.
The indictment alleges that Patel performed EKGs on his patients, so he could then order nuclear stress tests which he did not administer. He allegedly used a poorly calibrated machine and presented his patients with fraudulent X-rays, in order to deceive his patients into thinking they had coronary issues that needed to be treated by him, the indictment alleged.
“Dr Patel is the first person to be charged in Nevada since the formation of the Justice Department’s Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit,” Acting US Attorney Steven Myhre said. “Despite his physician’s oath to do no harm, Dr Patel recklessly prescribed opioids, for no legitimate medical purpose,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Aaron Rouse.
Over 64,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016. The majority of these deaths can be attributed to opioids, including illicit fentanyl.