San Diego physician arrested for role in alleged 'pill mill' scheme: 4 things to know

Special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested a San Diego-based physician and seven others on charges related to a conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute hydrocodone, according to a March 12 release from the U.S. Attorney's Office Southern District of California.

Here are four things to know.

1. Law enforcement officials allege Egisto Salerno, MD, the 73-year-old owner and operator of a medical office in San Diego, participated in a conspiracy to unlawfully distribute hydrocodone beginning November 2014. Dr. Salerno allegedly treated individuals, who were often homeless, posing as patients in his office and wrote them prescriptions for hydrocodone without administering a medical exam. Dr. Salerno received an office visit fee for each of these alleged interactions.

2. These individuals were allegedly recruited by several other suspects, including 57-year-old Stephen Toney. Recruiters would allegedly arrange transportation for the individuals to travel to the medical office and collect the prescribed hydrocodone after the visits to illegally distribute the drugs.

3. Additional charges against Dr. Salerno allege the physician and two of his medical assistants falsified medical records to justify the hydrocodone prescriptions. The physician is also accused of writing hydrocodone prescriptions for both deceased and incarcerated individuals incapable of visiting the medical office.

4. U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman described the opioid crisis as ravaging San Diego and Imperial Counties.

"We are and will continue to zealously prosecute and bring to justice those doctors, pharmacies, medical providers and others who are furthering this epidemic to line their own pockets," said Mr. Braverman.

More articles on opioids: 
FDA to encourage pharma to sell medication-assisted treatments for opioid addicts 
New Jersey county opioid lawsuit targets former Purdue leaders 
11 states, DC lack enough certified prescribers to meet opioid addiction treatment demands

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