98 arrested in NY prescription drug sweep

98 people, including doctors and patients and alleged dealers, were charged in connection with several investigations into prescription drug trafficking on June 6, 2012. iStockphoto

(CBS News) NEW YORK - Federal and state prosecutors have charged 98 people, including doctors and patients and alleged dealers, in connection with several investigations into prescription drug trafficking.

U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch announced the charges Wednesday, along with prosecutors from Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island and law enforcement agencies, reports CBS New York station WCBS-TV.

Lynch said authorities' investigation focused on alleged dealers called "doctor shoppers" and health care professionals who "exceeded their lawful authority to dispense and distribute controlled substances, did so in bad faith, for no legitimate medical purpose, and outside the usual course of accepted medical practices."

One of those charged, a doctor from Great Neck, is accused of conspiring to distribute oxycodone to "shoppers" he knew were reselling to addicts, prosecutors said. Another doctor from Baldwin is charged with illegal distribution of oxycodone.

Prosecutors allege that between January 2009 and November 2011, the doctor wrote more than 5,000 oxycodone prescriptions to patients who were known drug addicts. Authorities also said that in less than a month, an alleged doctor shopper from Staten Island was able to get nearly 1,800 pills from eight different doctors in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.

Lynch said in a statement that prescription drug trafficking represents a "menace every bit as dangerous as trafficking in cocaine or other narcotics."

Meanwhile in a separate case, a Brooklyn doctor has been indicted on charges he sold prescriptions for oxycodone by the thousands to addicted patients who used phony identification, according to prosecutors.

At times, Dr. Shaikh Hasan wrote up to 100 prescriptions for serious painkillers in a single day, investigators said. Some of the drugs were then resold on the streets.

"The only suggestion of concern was he articulated some fear that the drugs might be sold to children who might then overdose on the pills," said Bridget Brennan, the city's special narcotics prosecutor.

Hasan is being held on $2 million cash bail. News of these recent arrests come one day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo reached a deal with legislative leaders to change how the state monitors such drugs, a measure that has been pushed by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

"It's the fastest growing drug problem in our state and in the country. -- They're the drugs of choice for a whole new generation of abusers," Schneiderman said Tuesday.

"What's at stake here is thousands of lives, billions of dollars in health care costs. We passed the point several years ago where there was one prescription for narcotic painkillers for every man, woman child in New York."

The measure would require real-time electronic tracking of prescriptions for painkillers. Doctors would also have to check a patient's history in a database before prescribing the drugs.

"Without question, this legislative package will save lives - of crime victims confronted by desperate addicts and those who overdose on these drugs," Assemblyman Dean Murray said in a statement.

Critics say the current system allows addicts and others to go from doctor to doctor for multiple prescriptions.

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