New York City doctor charged with manslaughter in overdose deaths

New York City doctor charged with manslaughter in overdose deaths

He was extradited to NY from Wisconsin by Drug Enforcement Agency officers last week. Dr. Lawrence Choy, 65, allegedly prescribed addictive painkillers and other controlled substances in potentially lethal dosages and combinations for no legitimate medical goal to patients of his medical practice in Queens.

"After 30-plus years in law enforcement I never thought I'd see the day where doctors and drug dealers were interchangeable", James Hunt, the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in NY, said in announcing the charges. He was arrested in March at a house in Sheboygan, Wis., where officials say he moved once he realized he was under investigation. "Both types of traffickers push millions of doses of opioids into our communities, leaving grieving families in their wakes".

The three patients died between 2013 and 2016.

Two of the deaths - Eliot Castillo, 35 and Michael Ries, 30 - suffered fatal overdoses within three days of receiving their prescriptions from Choy, the government alleges.

Castillo received prescriptions for 680 oxycodone pills in a single month from Choy and even entered a drug treatment program during the 11 months that he was Choy's patient, investigators said.

A third patient, Daniel Barry, 43 also died of an overdose, according to authorities.

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At a news conference with federal and state officials, city special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan said Choy, a licensed internal medicine doctor since 1981, began a change in his practice in 2012, around the time he was hit with a $1 million back-tax bill.

Dr. Choy's prescriptions were filed at pharmacies in New York City, upstate New York, Long Island and New Jersey.

Dr. Lawrence Choy, 65, was scheduled to appear in Manhattan Supreme Court on Thursday for an arraignment. In addition, Choy allegedly prescribed addictive medications in inappropriately high dosages and pill counts and in potentially lethal combinations. For example, the investigation revealed that Choy simultaneously prescribed individual patients a trio of drugs including one or more opioids, a benzodiazepine and a muscle relaxant. Those three drugs together are known to doctors as the "Holy Trinity", she said.

"All three drugs have the effect of suppressing respiration and heartbeat, when take together, the risk overdose death is much higher", Brennan said.

The investigation showed that Choy, "personally observed the patients' physical and mental states deteriorate, while disregarding reports about patients' involvement in accidents, including motor vehicle accidents", the DEA said.

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