U.S. Attorney's Office joins Medicine Abuse Project

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan is one of 94 U.S. Attorney’s offices across the country teaming up with The Partnership at Drugfree.org’s “Medicine Abuse Project.”

This project aims to curb the abuse of medicine among teens while encouraging parents and the public to take action. A primary focus of the initiative will be to educate communities about the dangers of abusing prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

According to statistics, drug overdose death among teens 15 to 19 years old are up 91 percent in the past decade. Every day, 2,000 teens in this country are using prescription drugs for the first time for the sole purpose of getting high. Most teens who have abused prescription medicines have gotten them from family or friends.

The goal of the “Medicine Abuse Project” is to prevent half a million teens from abusing medicine within five years.

One of the new realities of the prescription drug abuse problem is that it is increasingly intertwined with health care fraud. Unscrupulous operators in the health care fraud business are taking advantage of persons who are dependent on prescription drugs. In exchange for allowing their Medicaid or other insurance card to be billed for medical tests that are unnecessary or not performed, “patients” are provided with prescriptions for controlled substances that are not medically necessary.

Another problem is the illegal “diversion” of prescription drug controlled substances.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is taking aggressive action to prosecute individuals who are illegally distributing prescription drugs. Those prosecutions include:

• Dr. Mikhayl Soliman of Plymouth, Michigan was recently charged in a ten-count indictment with Medicare fraud and with providing prescriptions for  pharmaceutical narcotics in exchange for cash payments outside the course of usual medical practice and for no legitimate purpose.

• Dr. Gwendolyn Washington pleaded guilty and was sentenced to serve 120 months in federal prison on charges of Medicare fraud and for writing prescriptions for tens of thousands of doses of OxyContin, Opana ER, and Roxicodone, highly addictive pain medications that have a significant “street value” on the illicit market.

• Dr. Ruth Ann Buck of Saginaw, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison on charges that she unlawfully distributed controlled substances.

• Sohrab Shafinia, a former Michigan physician, and Richard Riozzi, a pharmacist, pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison terms for unlawfully prescribing and filling hundreds of prescriptions for the painkiller Oxycontin in exchange for cash. The two were responsible for putting thousands of 80 mg into illegal distribution.

• Salahuddin Ahmad, a licensed medical doctor, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 36 months in prison for selling Oxycontin pills for redistribution. Ahmad, outside his legitimate practice of medicine, planned to sell over 2,400 Oxycontin tablets before he was arrested by DEA agents.

“At the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we are prosecuting doctors, pharmacists and other health care providers who are contributing to the problem of prescription drug addiction through illegal activities,” McQuade said. “We also want to educate parents about this issue and ask them to do their part by talking to their kids about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and properly disposing of unused medicine.”

For more information, go to MedicineAbuseProject.org.