Doctor Charged Over Unlawful Opioid Prescription, Healthcare Fraud in U.S.
Devendra Patel's arrest comes after U.S. government's efforts to stop “pill mill” physicians.
Indian American cardiologist Devendra Patel, 58, became the first person in Nevada to be charged for unlawful distribution of prescription opioids, and healthcare fraud. He appeared at a federal court at Reno, Nevada, this week.
Patel was charged with 39 counts, including 36 charges of distribution of controlled substances such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, and three counts of health care fraud. Each count has a maximum possible penalty of 10 years in prison.
Patel’s arrest is in the wake of push by the United States government to stop the so-called “pill mill” physicians, who prescribe large amounts of powerful opioid medications with no legitimate medical purpose, prosecutors said on Dec.12.
The statutory maximum penalty for distribution of a controlled substance is 10 years in prison while the maximum penalty for healthcare fraud is 10 years in prison. Patel was arrested at Elko and taken to Reno.
“He was the first person charged in Nevada under a U.S. Justice Department effort announced in August that made the state one of 12 with a federal prosecutor focused specifically on opioid fraud and abuse,” Steven Myhre, the acting U.S. attorney in Las Vegas said, according to Reno Gazette Journal.
Patel has been accused of prescribing fentanyl, hydrocodone and oxycodone for his patients without a legitimate medical purpose and fraudulently billing Medicare and Medicaid for medical tests that he did not perform between May 2014 and September 2017. He also performed EKGs to consequently order nuclear stress tests that did not take place.
He reportedly 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.
“Despite his physician’s oath to do no harm, Dr Patel recklessly prescribed opioids, for no legitimate medical purpose,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Aaron Rouse said, according to PTI.