Jury still deliberating on fate of Hamilton doctor accused of running pill mill

Posted at 5:00 AM, Apr 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-11 05:00:50-04

Jurors did not reach a verdict on Wednesday in the trial of a Hamilton doctor accused of overprescribing pain pills and sedatives in dangerous combinations to his patients.

Jurors will resume deliberations on Thursday morning in the case of Dr. Saad Sakkal, who faces 39 charges related to his prescription practices at Lindenwald Medical Associates from 2015 to 2016.

Prosecutors accuse the doctor of distributing dangerous drug cocktails to many patients who showed overt signs of addiction, including arriving to appointments high.

Sakkal's defense didn't deny he had acted irresponsibly but insisted his failure was one of perception and procedure. The 71-year-old doctor trusted his patients too easily, was too vulnerable to their demands and struggled too much with technology, attorney Richard Goldberg said. He had never intended to hurt anyone.

Jurors must decide which story they believe.

“He is, in fact, a drug dealer with a script pad,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Oakley said of Sakkal, suggesting that street drug dealers selling to clients who know the risks have a more honest relationship with their customers than Sakkal did with his patients.

“He lived on their addictions," Oakley added. "That was his job."

Sakkal was indicted as part of the largest national healthcare fraud and opioid takedown in American history — a sting that caught 76 doctors, 23 pharmacists, 19 nurses and other medical personnel across the nation in June 2018. Some worked at the same clinic, though not at the same time.

The doctor faces 30 counts of illegal distribution of controlled substances and seven counts of using a nurse practitioner’s prescription pad to write prescriptions for his patients.

He also stands charged with causing the overdose deaths of two women. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

Goldberg insisted his client had good intentions and “reasonably thought he could help these people.” According to him, Sakkal was gullible, believed his patients when they lied about their pain and felt bullied into prescribing them whatever drugs they asked for.

He added: “Each patient has to accept some responsibility for their actions.”

As of late Wednesday, jurors had spent roughly 10 hours deliberating on a verdict.