A New Jersey doctor was recently arrested for allegedly writing forged prescriptions for painkillers and anxiety pills. The police said he was a part of a deeply entrenched drug ring operating in the area.
Dr. Craig Gialanella, a doctor practicing in Belleville, N.J., was arrested on July 18, 2017, and was charged with illegal distribution of narcotics, according to the New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino. “Doctors who act like drug dealers and illegally dole out prescriptions for these highly addictive painkillers are nothing more than drug pushers in white coats,” said Porrino.
Porrino noted that such doctors were more dangerous than the street drug dealers because of the enormous trust people have on doctors. He said that instead of protecting the lives of patients, Gialanella had put their lives in jeopardy by prescribing addictive medicines that were not required. He immensely profited from prescribing opioids to people in one of the counties of New Jersey that is hit the hardest by the opioid epidemic.
An Atlantic County pharmacist got suspicious when he started receiving numerous prescriptions of high-dose painkillers, written by a doctor located some 100 miles away. He immediately alerted the authorities about this unnatural trend. The pharmacist noticed that the doctor altered the names to avoid detection. The chemist undoubtedly saved many lives by bringing the doctor to book, said the attorney general.
Though the investigations are still on, initial findings revealed that Gialanella had issued in excess of 350,000 oxycodone 30-milligram tablets to his patients. At street value of $20 each, he would have been richer by more than $7 million.
The incident is more surprising because New Jersey has the toughest laws for painkiller prescriptions in the country. The authorities were astonished to see how the doctor continued with his misdeeds in spite of such tough laws where the initial prescription is limited to five days, and strict guidelines are in place for doctors prescribing opioids. The rules also bind state-regulated health insurers to cover at least six months of substance abuse treatment.
If convicted, Gialanella’s second-degree crimes would invite a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Third-degree crimes in the state would hand out a sentence of up to three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The state has also formulated laws to deal with doctors who arbitrarily prescribe opioids to patients without exercising caution. Overdose data shows that people often develop an addiction after receiving prescription painkillers. In 2015, accidental drug overdoses killed more than 1,600 people in New Jersey, which is four times the number of people who died from homicide and three times the number killed in road accidents. A majority of the fatal overdoses involved prescription opioids. Though there is no data for 2016, officials are of the view that the number could be higher compared to the previous year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 52,404 people died from drug overdose in the U.S. in 2015, up from 47,055 in 2014, with 63 percent involving prescription opioids.
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