Unfortunately, chronic pain is a condition many Americans face. Each patient deals with their chronic pain condition in different ways, but a full 25% have visited a chiropractor or a doctor who specializes in pain management to gain some relief. These pain doctors are trusted to prescribe helpful treatments, but one Alabama pain specialist is headed to jail for illegally prescribing dangerous drugs.
Shelinder Aggarwal, a Huntsville pain doctor, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to to illegally prescribing controlled substances and for Medicare fraud. As part of his plea deal, he also agreed to pay $6.7 million in restitution costs along with the forfeit of his clinic on Turner Street in the Huntsville medical district.
Described by U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance as “a drug dealer masquerading as a doctor,” Aggarwal was the top prescriber of prescription painkillers in 2012, according to a 2014 report by ProPublica.
Alabama pharmacies filled 110,000 prescriptions that year. Broken down, that number translates to 423 prescriptions per day in the five day work week.
Aggarwal also used false urine tests so he could bill Medicare. He often ignored the validity of these tests, and gained about $9.5 million in Medicare reimbursements before he was forced to surrender his Alabama medical license in 2013.
Not only did Aggarwal scam the insurance company, prosecutors believe he did not give his patients the treatment they deserved. Documents from the lawsuit state that Aggarwal saw between 80 to 140 patients per day, often for five minutes or less. He did not obtain prior medical records, only used controlled substances, and often prescribed to those he knew were using illegal drugs. He also often asked his patients what drugs they wanted and refiled their requests without question.
The FBI’s Roger Stanton explains the severity of these actions to AL.com. He said,”In addition, he directly contributed to the opioid drug epidemic which is plaguing our nation, and potentially endangered the lives of his patients. I applaud the work of my agents and our partners to shut down Aggarwal’s pill mill and hold him accountable for his actions.”