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Physicians Supporting Prescription Drug Addiction Plead Guilty
A multi-agency task force of six federal agencies has cracked a multimillion dollar Internet pharmacy scam that, over several years, grossed at least $126 million in illegal pharmaceutical sales. It’s only logical to assume that many of the customers were victims of prescription drug addiction who found an easy way to support their habits.
Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the IRS, the FBI, the DEA and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service co-operated in the case against Affpower, an Internet pharmacy with numerous affiliated web sites. By June 2006, the Affpower enterprise allegedly received more than a million Internet orders for controlled and non-controlled prescription drugs from customers in all 50 U.S. states.
Controlled substances include opium and its derivative prescription pain killers, as well as hallucinogens, depressants and stimulants — all of which are contributing to soaring rates of injuries, deaths and prescription drug addiction across the country.
Chandresh Shah, M.D., 51, of Smyrna, GA., and Gerald Morris, M.D., 37, of Houston, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to illegally distribute controlled substances. Both face a maximum of five years in prison and $250,000 fines for conspiracy to illegally distribute controlled substances. Both admitted they, and several other doctors, wrote prescriptions for their own personal profit with no personal contact with customers.
News reports did not specify what, if any, action would be taken against the physicians involved by the various state medical licensing boards. But doctors who knowingly contribute to prescription drug addiction through criminal activity should certainly lose their licenses.
Others involved in the Affpower scheme, including founder Michael L. Bezonsky, 46, of Calabasas, CA., Brittin Cahill, 45, of Alisa Viejo, CA, who ran the web sites, and seven others, have pleaded guilty to various charges. Nine others are awaiting trial. Defendants will forfeit millions of dollars for their crimes, millions more as fines, and some face maximum sentences of up to 20 years for conspiracy, money laundering, and selling controlled substances illegally.
Anyone looking squarely at this kind of activity can see how this was a simply gang pushing prescription drug addiction for profit, selling drugs to anyone, even children. They are no different from drug crime syndicates pushing illicit drugs on the streets and in school yards across the country.
In the efforts to curb prescription drug addiction, law enforcement investigations have closed down other fraudulent Internet pharmacies, but hundreds more still exist. Prescription drug addiction has become an epidemic in America, and the only safe route back from addiction for many addicts is a medical drug detox program and months of drug rehabilitation.
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