Physicians and drug charges: 5 cases to know

Here are five physicians facing drug charges reported by Becker's since March 6:

1. George Barrio, MD,  formerly a pain management physician at Panama City, Fla.-based NeuroMedical Institute, agreed to pay a $225,000 settlement for allegedly prescribing opioids and other controlled substances unlawfully. 

2. New York City pain specialist Howard Adelglass, MD, was sentenced to 150 months in prison for a conspiracy that saw him prescribe more than 1.3 million oxycodone pills in a three-year period. Dr. Adelglass operated a pain management clinic in Manhattan that he initially staffed with young women, some of whom became addicted to oxycodone via illegal prescriptions. He and his office manager solicited sex acts from especially vulnerable patients in exchange for illegal oxycodone prescriptions.

3. Washington, D.C., anesthesiologist Robert Cao, MD, was sentenced to 15 months in prison, three years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service for charges including prescribing opioids to a patient who later died of an overdose. Dr. Cao wrote at least five prescriptions for oxycodone and hydrocodone in 2021 for a man with whom he had no doctor-patient relationship, and whom he knew had no qualifying medical condition. The man was found dead May 31, 2021.

4. Two pain clinic owners, a Tennessee physician and his wife, were each sentenced to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $50 million apiece in restitution for defrauding insurers, providing unnecessary services and illegally distributing opioids. Mark Murphy, MD, and Jennifer Murphy owned and operated North Alabama Pain Services in Decatur and Madison, both shuttered since 2017. Dr. Murphy wrote prescriptions for more than 10 million opioid pills, including millions of oxycodone 30 mg tablets, over a five-year span.

5. Murrysville, Pa.-based emergency room physician Jessie Kunkel, MD, was charged for writing fraudulent prescriptions. Since 2018, Dr. Kunkel had been prescribing patients drugs such as Adderall and Xanax and keeping a portion of the pills for herself in exchange for writing the prescriptions.

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