Physician pleads guilty to unlawful drug distribution after patient overdose

Lafayette, La.-based physician Robert Cao, MD, has pleaded guilty to five felony counts of unlawful controlled substance distributions, the U.S. Justice Department said Nov. 8. 

Dr. Cao prescribed various narcotic pain medications in the months leading up to an overdose death of a patient last year in Falls Church, Va., where Dr. Cao was previously based. 

Dr. Cao admitted that on at least five occasions in 2021, he wrote prescriptions for oxycodone and hydrocodone to a patient without having any relationship with him, no physician examination and knowing he had no medical condition that would necessitate the prescriptions. 

On May 31, 2021, first responders were dispatched to the patients' Fairfax, Va., residence where he was pronounced deceased. 

An autopsy documented the death as combined oxycodone and ethanol poisoning. Prescription bottles listing Dr. Cao as the prescribing doctor, including one containing Percocet, were found on the patient's nightstand. Court filings also detail messages exchanged between Dr. Cao and the patient where the physician agreed to prescribe pain medications in exchange for a kickback of some of the pills he had prescribed. 

 He is scheduled for sentencing Feb. 22, 2023.

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