The cases last week of a Las Vegas doctor sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for drug trafficking and of a Henderson doctor arraigned for felony drug distribution serve as a reminder that these serious charges are not merely for cartels and street dealers. Doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals are frequently the target of controlled substance investigations and arrests, especially with the growing popularity of recreational and nonmedical prescription drug use.
Victor Bruce, the Las Vegas doctor, was convicted in U.S. District Court of trafficking oxycodone, a popular painkiller. Oxycontin is a popular brand of the substance. Trafficking is a term that refers to the production, transportation and/or sale of controlled substances.
Bruce was accused and convicted of running what is commonly called a “pill mill.” A pill mill is a doctor’s office, clinic or other health care facility that illegally prescribed unnecessary medication to patients. Painkillers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and codeine are common controlled substances are common substances in pill mill cases. Ambien, Adderall, Xanax and other prescription drugs may also be involved. In many cases, the medical professional is charged with distributing more than one type of drug.
Mahesh Kuthuru, a Henderson doctor running a pain management clinic, was arraigned before a U.S. Magistrate for felony drug distribution. Kuthuru is accused of selling prescriptions for painkillers, including oxycodone, morphine sulfate and methadone, when the drugs were not medically necessary.
Doctors, pharmacists and medical professionals are typical targets in pill mill cases. Doctors may write prescriptions for patients for controlled substances. They may charge patients for their services, including writing these prescriptions. However, the prescriptions must be medically necessary. In cases involving medical professionals facing drug charges, accusations are often that the doctor is writing medically unnecessary prescriptions.
Pill mill cases may result in trafficking or distribution charges, in state or federal court. If convicted of certain trafficking offenses, the medical professional could face mandatory minimum sentences. Doctors could also lose their medical license as a result of any conviction or accusation relating to selling prescriptions.
Doctors have much to lose if facing charges for controlled substance offenses, and should acquire the services of a Las Vegas drug defense lawyer as soon as they learn they are under investigation.