Doctor’s arrest for writing over $1M in addictive prescriptions highlights larger drug problem — and possible new solution

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ROCKVILLE CENTRE, L.I. (PIX11) – Investigators say he caused hundreds, and possibly thousands of people to be addicted to drugs, and that he did it at taxpayers’ expense.  Now, a Long Island doctor is under arrest, and while agents say it will reduce the flow of prescription painkiller abuse somewhat, New York State’s top cop is introducing a new initiative aimed at slowing down that flow to a trickle.

Some of the dozens of officers from the state attorney general’s office and Rockville Centre police department were on hand at one of two medical offices run by Dr. Anand Persaud on Tuesday.  They took him into custody at his main office, on Atlantic Avenue in Baldwin, Long Island, but also served a search warrant at his practice in Jamaica, Queens.

While officers walked him out of his Baldwin office in handcuffs, and then walked him again, in cuffs, into Rockville Centre police headquarters, PIX11 News asked Persaud if he had any reaction to the allegations against him, Dr. Persaud had no comment, either time.

New York’s attorney general, however, had plenty to say about the veteran physician who was taken into custody as the result of a 13-month undercover investigation by the attorney general’s office, in conjunction with Rockville Centre police.

“Dr. Persaud, the guy we busted today,” said Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, “was just a drug dealer hiding in a white [lab]coat.”

Schneiderman told PIX11 News that his office had worked with Rockville Centre police to nab Persaud.  Rockville Centre Police Commissioner Charles Gennario said that his department had arrested someone in Rockville Centre over a year ago who had easily obtained an addictive prescription medication from the doctor.

That arrest helped to widen an investigation into Persaud that the attorney general’s office was already pursuing, according to Rockville Centre police.  In the attorney general’s operation, undercover officers repeatedly purchased oxycodone and other prescription opiates from Persaud.  He became one of the top ten writers of painkiller prescriptions in the state, even though, unlike some of the even more prolific prescription writers, he was not a pain management specialist.

“He had a bunch of [patients] who then he would not examine at all,” said Attorney General Schneiderman, “and they would come in and he’d demand cash, and he would give them a prescription for oxycodone as though he was dishing out candy.”

Outside of Persaud’s office on Tuesday, one of his patients, who would not give his name, brought two plastic shopping bags full of prescription medication bottles to the office.  Police on scene questioned the man because of the unusual act, but let him go free after a short while, at least for now.  The investigation is still underway, according to the attorney general.

Another couple of patients, who gave their names only as Dee and Gary, also showed up at Persaud’s Baldwin office, for an appointment.  When PIX11 News informed them of what had happened to him, they had nothing but glowing praise for the doctor who had treated Dee’s Lyme Disease symptoms, and Gary’s liver issues.

“It’s shocking,” said Gary.  “I wish him well.”

“He goes over the edge to help people,” Dee said.  “He made house calls.  He was just a good man.  i just wish him well.”

According to the criminal complaint against him, Dr. Persaud took in $1.4 million for painkiller prescriptions in the period in 2011 and 2012 in which investigators were monitoring him.  According to the attorney general, it’s quite possible that Persaud was making large amounts of money well before that.  He’s been in medical practice for 14 years, according to Rockville Centre police.

Persaud’s case, however, would be the last major one, if a new program being introduced by Attorney General Schneiderman achieves its goals.  Next month, the attorney general will introduce a system called I-STOP, the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing.  As its name implies, it’s an online registration    system in which all pharmacists are required to report all sales of potentially addictive prescription drugs.  I-STOP’s other key component is physicians.

“Doctors are going to be required to consult the [I-STOP] system,” said Schneiderman, “so they can’t use the excuse we feel Dr. Persaud and others used.  ‘Oh, I didn’t know someone had a problem,'” the attorney general said, imitating excuses he and his office have heard from medical professionals about addicts receiving drugs from them.  Under I-STOP, Schneiderman said, “Yes, you do [know someone had a problem].”

Now that Persaud is locked up, PIX11 asked the attorney general if the doctor’s case could end up like that of another doctor practicing in the same town as Persaud.  Dr. Lutful Chowdhury, a Baldwin pharmacist, was arrested on similar charges by federal Drug Enforcement Agency investigators last year.

Days after Chowdhury’s arrest, he was allowed to return to work, as long as he didn’t sell addictive prescription drugs.  Schneiderman gave every assurance that Persaud’s case is different.

“He’s charged with two C-Class felonies,” the attorney general said, adding that each felony has a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.  Schneiderman also added that because his office’s investigation into Dr. Persaud is continuing, it may yield more charges against him, especially after a grand jury hears the case.

Persaud pleaded not guilty at his first court appearance Tuesday afternoon, but the judge would not grant him bail.  Prosecutors had made a strong argument for remanding him.

They echoed points that the attorney general made in an interview with PIX11 News.  He said that Persaud had not only taken millions in cash in exchange for prescriptions, but “what makes this guy worse than even a street drug dealer,” said Schneiderman, “is that he was a Medicaid provider.  There was a lot of taxpayer subsidy going into this overprescribing of addictive prescription painkillers.”

Persaud’s next court appearance is scheduled for Thursday.

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