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Queens Chronicle

Drug dealing doctor from Flushing gets five years

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Posted: Monday, July 8, 2019 3:19 pm

Authorities last week announced that Ernesto Lopez, a doctor and Flushing resident, was sentenced to five years in prison for writing thousands of medically unnecessary prescriptions for oxycodone and fentanyl over an approximately three-year period.

The 76-year-old defendant had been found guilty in February, according to the office of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman.

Lopez operated medical clinics in Manhattan, Jackson Heights and Franklin Square, LI, from around 2015 until his November 2017 arrest. He used them to sell thousands of prescriptions for large quantities of oxycodone and fentanyl.

The doctor wrote prescriptions for a total of nearly a million oxycodone pills. The sum of them was worth about $20 million.

He charged patients $200 or $300 in cash for visits from patients, despite the fact that nearly 80 percent of them had health insurance.

Lopez performed no meaningful physical examinations in many of the patient visits and didn’t attempt to make a diagnosis. 

He prescribed large volumes of oxycodone, most frequently 120 30-milligram tablets, and fentanyl patches, often to patients who demonstrated clear signs of drug addiction and whose test results showed that they were not taking – and therefore were redistributing – the oxycodone he prescribed.

In addition to prescribing medically unnecessary oxycodone and fentanyl patches, Lopez also prescribed to many patients a fentanyl-based spray intended to treat breakthrough cancer pain, for which those patients had no legitimate medical need. In connection with those prescriptions, Lopez submitted an application to INSYS Therapeutics to join a “speaker’s program,” wherein doctors received payments in exchange for prescribing the fentanyl-based spray to patients.

At the time of Lopez’s arrest, agents recovered hundreds of fentanyl sprays and patches from the closet of his residence, along with approximately $729,000 in cash.

Aside from the five-year sentence, the Flushing man was sentenced to three years of supervisory release, ordered to pay a $50,000 fine and to forfeit $1,400,000.

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