LAS VEGAS (KXNT) – A pain management doctor practicing in Las Vegas was arrested Tuesday and charged with 29 counts of unlawful distribution of fentanyl and for committing health care fraud, announced Attorney General Jeff Sessions, U.S. Attorney Dayle Elieson of the District of Nevada, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Dan Neill for the DEA’s Las Vegas field office, Special Agent in Charge Aaron C. Rouse for the FBI’s Las Vegas Division, and Special Agent in Charge Christian J. Schrank for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office Los Angeles Region.
66 year old Dr. Steven A. Holper is charged in an indictment with seven counts of distribution of Fentanyl, a controlled substance, and 22 counts of providing a false statement relating to a health benefit program.
Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid painkiller that is 100 times more potent than morphine and 40 to 60 times more powerful than 100% heroin. Fentanyl is available in various forms, including Subsys. Subsys is only available through the Transmucosal Immediate-Release Fentanyl (TIRF) risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) Access program. The only FDA approved indication for TIRF medicines are for use to manage breakthrough pain in adults with cancer. Dr. Holper routinely prescribed Subsys for his patients without cancer.
According to allegations contained in the indictment, which was unsealed Tuesday, from about July 19, 2015 through March 12, 2016, Holper allegedly prescribed Subsys to a patient without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice. The indictment further alleges that, from about November 21, 2013 through March 24, 2017, Holper knowingly made false statements to Medicate and private health insurance companies. Dr. Holper prescribed Subsys for patients without cancer and falsely represented 22 patients were cancer patients with breakthrough cancer pain, who were opioid tolerant and eligible for Subsys.
“Our great country has never before seen the levels of addiction and overdose deaths that we are suffering today. Sadly, some trusted medical professionals like doctors, nurses, and pharmacists have chosen to violate their oaths and exploit this crisis for cash–with devastating consequences. Our goals at the Department of Justice for 2018 are to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions, the number of overdose deaths, and violent crime, which is often drug related. That’s why I created the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit and sent 12 top prosecutors to opioid hot spots around the country; to help us find the medical fraudsters who are flooding our streets with drugs. These prosecutors are already issuing indictments from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas. I want to thank the DEA, FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Henderson, Nevada Police Department, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kilby Macfadden for their hard work on this case. I am convinced that these efforts make drugs less available on the streets, send a message to criminals, and ultimately make our communities much safer,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“This indictment is another example of the U.S. Attorney’s Office committment to hold doctors accountable when they violate federal laws designed to protect the health and safety of patients. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work with law enforcement partners to safeguard the public from prescription drug and opioid abuse and to ensure medical doctors are prioritizing patients’ health above their personal financial gain,” said U.S. Attorney Elieson.
“The individual arrested today (tues) wholly neglected the public’s trust, he violated the Hippocratic Oath that all healthcare professionals vow to uphold when the respect of the profession is bestowed upon them,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Neill. “Deliberately prescribing addictive and dangerous opioids outside the course of legitimate medical practice is drug dealing, and DEA is committed to holding drug dealers accountable,” Neill said.
“The accessibility of fentanyl and other deadly drugs are a threat to our communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Rouse. “Each and every day, the FBI and our partners in Nevada are working hard targeting distributors, who are consciously contributing to the appalling opioid crisis that is inflicting mayhem in neighborhoods all over the state of Nevada,” Rouse said.
“Dr. Holper is charged with needlessly prescribing one of the deadliest forms of opioids and defrauding U.S. taxpayers,” said Special Agent in Charge Schrank. “With our law enforcement partners we will continue our fight to bring these suspected criminals to justice and protect our communities.”
The statutory maximum penalty for distribution of a controlled substance is 20 years in prison and the maximum penalty for health care fraud is 10 yeas in prison.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Henderson Police Department, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kilby Macfadden is prosecuting the case.