D.C. physician gets 15 months prison for opioid distribution leading to patient death

Washington, D.C., anesthesiologist Robert Cao, MD, was sentenced to 15 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service for charges including prescribing opioids to a patient who later died of an overdose, the Justice Department said March 8.

Dr. Cao, 39, wrote at least five prescriptions for oxycodone and hydrocodone in 2021 for a man with whom he had no doctor-patient relationship, and whom he knew had no qualifying medical condition, the Justice Department said. The man was found dead on May 31, 2021.

He and the victim exchanged text messages in which Dr. Cao agreed to prescribe the opioids in exchange for a kickback of some of the pills, the Justice Department said. The night before the man's death, he met Dr. Cao in a parking lot to give the anesthesiologist some of the opioids.

Dr. Cao told the victim not to create a paper trail, and to fill the prescriptions at times when pharmacies would be least likely to raise questions, the department said. He hid the pad he used for the victim's prescriptions at his home inside a hollowed-out container made to look like a diary.

After hearing about the man's death, Dr. Cao made fraudulent medical records that he backdated to make it appear that the prescriptions were part of a lawful doctor-patient relationship, the department said.

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