Nevada cardiologist arrested on 39 charges of unlawful opioid distribution, healthcare fraud

Authorities arrested an Elko, Nev.-based cardiologist Tuesday on 36 charges of unlawful distribution of prescription opioids and three counts of healthcare fraud, according to an announcement made by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other law enforcement officials.

According to the 39-count indictment, Devendra Patel, MD, allegedly prescribed opioids such as fentanyl, hydrocodone and oxycodone without legitimate medical cause on a routine basis from May 2014 to September 2017. The charges against Dr. Patel also allege the physician fraudulently billed Medicaid and Medicare for medical tests he did not perform. Additionally, Dr. Patel stands accused of presenting patients with fraudulent X-rays to convince them they had heart conditions and coax them into seeking treatment from him.

"Today we are facing the worst drug crisis in American history, with one American dying of a drug overdose every nine minutes," Mr. Sessions said. "This summer, I ordered the creation of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which brings together data analysts and Assistant United States Attorneys from throughout the country to prosecute doctors engaged in opioid-related healthcare fraud. … We will file many more charges in the months to come — because the Department of Justice will be relentless in hunting down drug dealers and turning the tide of this epidemic."

The maximum penalty for distribution of a controlled substance is 10 years in prison. The maximum penalty for healthcare fraud is also 10 years in prison. Dr. Patel is slated to appear in federal court on Wednesday in Reno.

More articles on opioids: 
Aetna to waive copays for opioid overdose antidote Narcan: 3 things to know 
HHS awards $10k to 3 opioid code-a-thon teams 
7 recent opioid epidemic lawsuits

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