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Hamilton doctor who ran pill mill to spend 20 years in prison

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Posted at 5:03 PM, Aug 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-14 17:03:16-04

A Hamilton doctor convicted of using his medical practice to deal opioids was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison.

Saad Sakkal, 72, was convicted in 2019 following a trial in which former staff, fellow physicians and patients’ relatives testified about the medical neglect at Lindenwald Medical Associates, where he worked from February 2015 until late 2016.

That short time was enough to get him noticed by users — and, eventually, by law enforcement.

According to testimony from Sakkal’s trial, patients came to Lindenwald high and left with prescriptions for more opiates. Past histories of drug abuse didn’t disqualify them; neither did active traces of illegal drugs in their systems.

Sandra Prewitt, a former medical assistant at Lindenwald, said Sakkal actively discouraged her from logging prescriptions in the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS), to monitor patients’ controlled substance prescription history. He thought it took too much time, she said.

At the height of his practice, he saw up to 60 patients each day. Witnesses described his waiting room as full of people clearly seeking drugs, sometimes unconscious or actively high. Local pharmacies, skeptical of his practice, stopped filling his prescriptions.

In some cases, he wrote prescriptions in combinations that were dangerous even if used correctly. One patient, Ashley Adkins, was prescribed Oxycodone — an opiate pain medicine — and alprazolam — an anti-anxiety benzodiazepine better known as Xanax — in a single visit.

She died of an overdose two days later.

Although Sakkal’s attorneys argued that Adkins and other patients were responsible for their own actions, Sakkal was convicted of 30 counts of illegal distribution of controlled substances outside the scope of a medical practice and with no legitimate medical purpose, plus six counts of use of a registration number that was issued to someone else.

“Sakkal issued deadly drug cocktails without regard for the repeated warnings he received from employees, patients, pharmacists, another doctor, and the electronic records system,” said U.S. Attorney David M. DeVillers in a news release announcing the sentence. “This doctor dealer even ignored overdoses by his patients. Instead of helping his patients, he caused more harm, and as a result, he earned spending the next few decades in federal prison.”