It’s devastating enough when a loved one dies from an overdose, but learning that the oxycodone, hydrocodone, or Percocet came from someone running a drug ring can conjure a wide range of emotions. Unfortunately, illegally obtained medication is becoming a growing problem in northeast Ohio. If you have questions about filing a wrongful death lawsuit for Cleveland prescription fraud, contact attorney Tom Robenalt for a free consultation today.
What Is an Opioid?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines opioids as pain relievers that include medications such as hydrocodone, or its brand name Vicodin, oxycodone, or OxyContin, morphine, and codeine. Hydrocodone is typically prescribed after an injury or dental work.
Local Prescription Drug Ring Busted
March 21, 2016, cleveland.com reported that 40-year-old Heather Mitchell was sentenced to 11 years in prison for stealing doctors’ prescription pads and Drug Enforcement Agency numbers and then writing fake prescriptions for opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin.
“She manipulated at least a dozen people – many of them struggling with drug addiction – to help her obtain more than 5,000 prescription pills and then push them out on to the streets of Cuyahoga County and five other counties in Greater Cleveland,” Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Jennifer O’Malley said.
Among other counts, the woman was charged with identity fraud, forgery, theft, drug trafficking, and deception to obtain an illegal drug. Earlier in the year, the 14 people who helped her were indicted, according to the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office.
Opioid Overdose Statistics
One week before the woman running “the most sophisticated prescription drug ring” that local prosecutors had ever seen was sentenced, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 78 people die from an opioid overdose every day in the United States. That same month, 22 people died from one in Cuyahoga County. Twelve died in a five-day time span.
May 2, the CDC reported that drug overdose deaths in Ohio increased 18.3 percent between 2013 and 2014, when 2,744 people OD’d.
Pill Mills Are Part of the Problem
Between 2011 and 2015, 61 doctors and 15 pharmacists lost their license for improperly prescribing or dispensing prescription drugs, per Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. Of those doctors, 51 had their license permanently revoked.
“What we found [during our investigation] is there were doctors who were really just drug dealers,” DeWine said.
Former West Shore Family Practice doctor Ronald Celeste is just one example. April 4, 2016, the Westlake, Ohio, internist was sentenced to three years for running a pill mill, per cleveland.com. He reportedly wrote 33,000 fraudulent prescriptions for OxyContin, Percocet, Valium, and other prescription pills.
Prior to that, a federal arrest warrant was issued for Dr. Syed Jawad Akhtar-Zaidi of Solon, who ran the Pain Management of Northern Ohio clinic in Solon, according to Cleveland Scene. Between 2011 and 2013, he illegally prescribed 1,131,920 dosage units of oxycodone and 217,897 dosage units of morphine.
Do You Have Questions About a Prescription Fraud Death?
If you believe a loved one died as a result of an overdose from drugs that were prescribed illegally, contact the Cleveland prescription fraud attorneys at The Robenalt Law Firm today. We offer free consultations to address your questions and a zero-cost review of your potential claims. We also handle most cases on a contingency fee basis, so if we don’t win your case, we won’t charge you for legal fees. You can rest assured that what is discussed during your consultation will remain confidential, but please don’t delay. Ohio places a statute of limitations, or time limit, on potential claims. For your free consultation, call (216) 223-7535, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out our online form.