A ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States found that doctors who mis-prescribe or overprescribed opioids must have done so purposefully to be criminally charged. Many doctors who have been charged during the opioid crisis have been accused of being “pill mills” and cranking out prescriptions almost maliciously. But if the doctors didn’t know or purposefully violated the Controlled Substances Act, they should not be charged, wrote Justice Breyer in the SCOTUS ruling.
The Opioid Cases That Made The Decision
Two different doctors had their cases kicked up to the Supreme Court, both of them facing over 20 years in prison and claiming their prescriptions for patients were written in good faith. Both doctors faced claims that they were writing prescriptions to help people with legitimate pain. They did not know they were addicting people and didn’t realize they were breaking the law.
Xiulu Ruan of Mobile, Alabama, is facing a 21-year prison term. Shakeel Kahn, who worked both in Ft. Mohave, Arizona, and Casper, Wyoming, is currently in prison with a 25-year sentence. Both now have the opportunity to ask for their cases to be overturned. The Supreme Court, however, stopped short of ruling to set them free. Instead, it recommended they now appeal their sentences.
Dr. Xiulu Ruan’s Opioid Scheme
Ruan was convicted of prescribing copious amounts of opioids to his clients. His partner at the time then took the money and converted it into marijuana. At the time, they were also prescribing large amounts of very powerful drugs, which caused several overdose deaths among his patients. According to the Justice Department, “Of particular importance in the trial were two brand name instant-release fentanyl drugs — Subsys and Abstral. Both Subsys and Abstral are only FDA-indicated for breakthrough cancer pain in opioid-tolerant adult patients. However, evidence showed that Dr. Ruan and Dr. Couch almost exclusively prescribed these drugs off-label for neck, back, and joint pain.”
Dr. Shakeel Kahn’s Opioid Scheme
Dr. Kahn and his brother, who was his accomplice, also distributed millions of opioid pills in both Wyoming and Arizona. They also dealt other drugs and laundered millions of dollars. At least one customer ended up dead from an overdose.
He was convicted of five counts of dispensing oxycodone/Oxycontin, three counts of possession with intent to distribute oxycodone and aid and abet. He also was charged and convicted of unlawful use of a communication facility, dispensing oxycodone and aid and abet, and two counts of money laundering.