In Syracuse this week, doctor Kiyoshi Kimura, 82, has been charged with attempting to illegally sell Suboxone, a prescription drug typically used to treat heroin addictions. Kimura was caught attempting to sell the drug to an undercover detective back in March, according to the criminal complaint.
Many might be surprised to learn that a doctor would be the source behind prescription drug fraud. However, in many cases, drug abuse represents an easy way for physicians to make extra money. Physicians are not only more likely to illegally prescribe prescription drugs, but they’re also more likely to take them. Doctors are, in fact, five times as likely to misuse prescription drugs than the general public.
Though much of the abuse is personal in nature, stolen prescription drugs can also carry a high price tag. In the U.S., an estimated 10% of all pharmaceutical medication is thought to be counterfeit. Stolen prescription drugs represent a more “trustworthy” way for people to receive their fix than buying online.
According to Marvin D. Seppala, MD, chief medical officer of Hazelden addiction treatment center, doctors use painkillers and prescription drugs like many people do — to help them cope with struggles or pain. What makes them unique, though, is their ease of access to these medicines. Seppala points out that doctors struggling with addictions are often described as “the best workers in the hospital” because they seek to both compensate for what they are doing, as well as ensure that their access to these drugs stays in place.
The problem is not a minor one. In 2010, approximately 60% of all overdose deaths involved prescription drugs, according to records kept by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even knowing this, physicians are often reluctant to report on peers that they suspect or know are abusing prescription drugs. Why? One-third of doctors interviewed in 2010 reported that they kept silent for various reasons, including fearing retribution, assuming someone else was addressing the problem, and not feeling like reporting it would make a difference.
In New York State, efforts are being made to remove unwanted prescription drugs from circulation. Prescription drug abuse, by physicians and everyone else, is often fueled by the number of unused drugs floating around and sitting in the back of medical cabinets. A new regulation now allows people to return unwanted prescription drugs at any time.
“It is important that we do everything we can to keep these drugs out of the wrong hands,” said Senator Charles Schumer in a released statement.