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Suffolk County Physician Convicted for Criminal Sale of Opioids

Doctor signing a prescription pad.

A strong signal was recently sent to doctors who think that they can engage in unscrupulous prescription practices without repercussions. Following a 10-day jury trial, Kurt Silverstein, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine was convicted on charges of Criminal Sale of a Prescription, Unauthorized Practice of Medicine, and Falsifying Business Records. In 2016, Silverstein was indicted for selling prescriptions for opioid medications on several occasions; aiding, abetting and authorizing one of his non-physician employees to issue prescriptions for controlled substances at her discretion; and falsifying electronic medical records relating to the patients. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sought to make an example of Silverstein due to the egregiousness of his actions.

Among the claims levied at Silverstein throughout the trial were that he would regularly leave his office to play ice hockey while leaving his receptionist to print and sign prescriptions for controlled substances, create electronic medical records of prescription-buying patients, and give the prescriptions to these individuals for fees up to $120.  The electronic medical record would then falsely record physical examinations and observations of the patient. He even went so far as to leave pad of signed prescription pads for his receptionist to distribute to customers in his absence during a trip to Arizona. The indictment charged that the medications included the controlled substances Xanax, Norco (hydrocondone with acetaminophen), Suboxone, Adderall, and Clonazepam.

Silverstein faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced on March 28. The conviction highlights widespread culpability of physicians in the growing prescription drug epidemic that is sweeping through New York and the rest of the United States. Lawmakers and prevention advocates alike are hoping other physicians who are considering writing prescriptions for profit will think twice before giving in to their basest impulses and put financial gain ahead of ethics and the welfare of their patients.

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