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June 08, 2018

Pennsylvania doctor illegally prescribed thousands of opioid painkillers

His operation led to the death of at least one patient

Courts Prescription Drugs
01082018_Opioids_CDC Source/www.cdc.gov

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A doctor in Northeastern Pennsylvania was found guilty in federal court this week of prescribing large amounts of opioid painkillers without a medical purpose out of his two medical offices. Among the patients to receive the drugs were a pregnant woman whose child was born addicted to opioids and another woman who died as a result of taking the pills.

Dr. Fuhai Li, 53, of Milford, Pike County, was found guilty on charges of unlawfully distributing controlled substances without a medical purpose, money laundering and tax evasion, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced on Tuesday.

Between 2011 and 2015, Li wrote nearly 27,000 prescriptions for oxycodone and other opioids to 23 former patients. He faces a mandatory 20-year sentence related to the death of the one patient, a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

A jury found Li guilty of giving a pregnant woman 120 oxycodone milligram tablets without a medical purpose. Eleven days later she gave birth to an opioid-dependent baby. 

In 2015, more than 3,000 people in Pennsylvania died from overdoses, 53 percent of those suffered overdoses from opioids like oxycodone, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Additionally, three former female patients testified Li exhibited inappropriate sexual behavior during medical examinations. One woman testified at Li's trial that during a four-year period she had sex with Li during almost every visit to his office and was prescribed high doses of various painkillers.

Many former patients who testified said they were prescribed high doses of opioids every month over several years and admitted to selling the drugs for money to buy heroin, the news release said.

Li was charged January 2015 after investigators seized more than $1 million in cash from the doctor's home along with electronic medical records.

Li faces the mandatory 20-year sentence for causing the woman's death, as well as up to life in prison. After a jury found Li guilty on Tuesday, he was immediately detained pending a sentencing.