Indian American Doctor Arrested Over Illegal Opioid Prescriptions

Sawtantra Kumar Chopra is accused of prescribing highly addictive, commonly abused prescription drugs without legitimate medical purpose.


An Indian American physician from Modesto, California, was arrested on April 26 for allegedly prescribing opioids to patients outside the usual course of professional practice. A federal grand jury in Fresno brought a 22-count indictment against Sawtantra Kumar Chopra, 71, on April 19 this year.

Chopra was arrested at his home in Modesto. If convicted, he faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison.

Chopra is said to have been selling prescriptions for money to four undercover agents on various occasions without examining or questioning them, reported Fox 40.

“Medical professionals who abuse their position of trust and fuel the opioid epidemic for profit will be held responsible,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

According to the indictment, Chopra prescribed, on 22 occasions between March 2017 and March 2018, highly addictive, commonly abused prescription drugs such as hydrocodone, alprazolam (Xanax), and Promethazine with codeine syrup, but without legitimate medical purpose.

“These controlled substances affect the central nervous system and may only be prescribed when medically required,” the statement said.

Becerra added that prescription drug abuse is a serious public health crisis that harms families and communities throughout California. “Combatting the epidemic and healing our communities takes a team effort. At the California Department of Justice, we will use every tool at our disposal to prosecute bad actors and protect the public,” he added.

The investigation in the case was conducted by the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Medical Fraud and Elder Abuse Drug Diversion Team, including others. A map pointed to the addresses of Chopra’s patients, indicating that they came from across the Sacramento region and the San Francisco Bay Area to Modesto to obtain the prescriptions. Investigations are on to see whether other transactions beyond those revealed by the undercover operation can be found, as per the report. Chopra’s practice was associated with Memorial Medical Center in Modesto.

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott said that diversion of drugs to those who abuse them or sell to abusers is a costly and dangerous enterprise. “Fortunately, with the cooperative efforts of our state and local partners, we have the ability to track powerful prescription drugs and find those who attempt to divert them,” Scott added in a statement.

Chopra was convicted in 2002 of getting illegal kickbacks when he referred a patient to an oxygen company, according to records from the Medical Board of California, the Sacramento Bee reported. Chopra was the medical director of this company. He was sentenced to three years of supervised probation and paid a fine of $75,000.

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