It appears that yet another doctor has placed the desire to make money by trafficking in prescription painkillers like OxyContin above the welfare of his patients. Dr. Julio Diaz, a Santa Barbara physician who has been linked to at least a dozen drug overdose deaths in recent years, was recently taken into custody at his home by local police and federal authorities from the DEA. The charges against him include felony drug trafficking.
The 63-year-old doctor had been the subject of an ongoing investigation for allegedly prescribing addictive prescription medication to patients who had no medical need for the drugs. He was known on the street as “Candy Man” because he had a reputation for freely dispensing prescription drugs. His reputation was so widespread that people drove hundreds of miles to his Family Medical Clinic to obtain drugs. An insurance company reported receiving nearly $1 million in claims over a three-year period for prescriptions written by Diaz.
In a prepared statement published in The Washington Post, U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. called Dr. Diaz a drug dealer and said he and other doctors who distribute addictive drugs without medical cause will face stiff penalties in federal court.
Although the doctor has not been charged with any deaths, details about his deceased patients were included in an arrest affidavit that was released to the press. Eleven patients who overdosed ranged in age from 26 to 58. A twelfth patient died of natural causes but drug abuse was found to be a contributing factor.
According to the Los Angeles Times, two of Dr. Diaz’s female patients who were treated in a hospital emergency room for drug problems told authorities that the doctor gave them drugs in exchange for sex. Over the past decade, the frequency of emergency room visits by Dr. Diaz’s patients was such a problem that some doctors and hospital staffers made formal complaints to the California Medical Board. The Times also has reported that a review of Santa Barbara coroners’ reports indicates that there are even more overdose cases that can be linked to drugs prescribed by Dr. Diaz.
In an October interview with the Times, Dr. Diaz admitted that he felt responsible for the deaths of some of his patients and admitted that “perhaps there were some hints that I should have known they were going to overdose on OxyContin.” He went on to call the overdoses “a good lesson.”
Dr. Diaz is currently being held without bail. He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the charges filed against him.
StopOxy applauds the DEA and city of Santa Barbara for taking this dealer off the street.