'El Chapo of Opioids' and 8 other physicians caught putting drugs on the street

In the last two months, Becker's has reported on at least nine physicians who have come under fire for illegally prescribing, selling or distributing opioids and other addictive drugs, including one so prolific he called himself "El Chapo of Opioids."

The nine physicians, covered across eight Becker's reports since April 26: 

1.Georgia pain management physician Wallace Steven Anderson, MD, pleaded guilty to participating in a drug-trafficking scheme based at his pain management clinic.

2. Michael DeNicola, DPM, pleaded guilty to his role in a healthcare fraud scheme, distribution of opioids and illegal possession of a firearm. 

3. Matthew Steven Miller, MD, an osteopathic physician, admitted he illegally wrote prescriptions for Xanax for six people between 2016 and 2018.

4. The Justice Department brought charges against an Alabama physician and business manager alleging healthcare fraud and the illegal prescription of opioids. According to court records, clinics run by Francene Aretha Gayle, MD, and Schara Monique Davis billed payers millions of dollars for patient visits that Dr. Gayle was supposed to have conducted but were instead conducted by other clinic staff. These patients were also allegedly given opioid prescriptions pre-signed by Dr. Gayle. 

5. Twelve medical professionals were charged with crimes related to illegal opioid distribution. In one case, a Kentucky dentist allegedly illegally prescribed a 24-year-old patient morphine as part of three opioid prescriptions within five days. The patient died from a morphine overdose, allegedly from one of the dentist's prescriptions.

Another case involves a Kentucky physician who allegedly illegally prescribed opioids to patients with taxpayer-funded insurance, the department said. The physician allegedly used the patients to bill the government programs for medically unnecessary procedures.

6. Physician Janet Arnold, MD, was sentenced to four years in prison on opioid distribution charges. Dr. Arnold, 63, was also given a three-year federal supervised release period once she completes her prison sentence. She participated in a prescription drug scheme that pushed thousands of pills onto the street.

7. Herbert Nassour, MD, a former physician in El Paso, Texas, agreed to pay $350,000 to settle allegations that he didn't account for more than 11,000 opioid doses. 

8. Robert Delagente, DO, was sentenced to 72 months in prison for opioid distribution and falsifying medical records to cover it up. Dr. Delagente, 48, prescribed drugs including oxycodone, Percocet, Tylenol with codeine, and various benzodiazepines without a legitimate medical purpose. He allegedly referred to himself as "El Chapo of Opioids" and the "Candy Man," according to the Justice Department.

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