Abuse of pharmaceutical opiates, or painkillers, is an ongoing epidemic on Long Island and around the country. Who is to blame for this epidemic? Are patients themselves to blame for their misuse of these highly addictive medications? What about the pharmaceutical companies that incentivize doctors to prescribe patients their medications? Lastly, are medical doctors who overprescribe them perpetuating this epidemic?
One Long Island doctor of osteopathy, Michael Belfiore, had charges brought against him in 2014 for illegally prescribing oxycodone on Long Island. An undercover officer had paid Belfiore thousands of dollars for which Belfiore in turn prescribed oxycodone without a legitimate reason. Belfiore was facing a potential 20 years in prison.
But recently, the charges against Belfiore were dismissed without prejudice. Belfiore’s defense attorney pointed blame at associated pharmaceutical companies for deceiving him as well as the public about the safety of these medications and their addictive nature. This argument certainly aligns with that of the growing number of plaintiff lawyers who are filing suit against Big Pharma. But this defense was not what got Belfiore’s case dismissed.
Judge Joseph Bianco ruled Friday that Belfiore’s indictment failed to include necessary statutory elements – namely, Belfiore wasn’t just overprescribing these medications, but was prescribing them to patients who did not need them. It was this filing error that caused the case to be “dismissed without prejudice” – meaning the case is not closed permanently. In other words, the case was dismissed because of a “lack of specific language” used in his indictment. The Eastern District U.S. Attorney’s office does plan, however, to file a new indictment. So, Belfiore is not out of the woods yet. This isn’t a just a case of overprescribing medication. Belfiore was caught prescribing an undercover officer oxycodone without legitimate reason.
In the grand scheme of this epidemic, who do you believe is to blame? We stand behind the masses and believe Big Pharma should be held to the highest standards in how they market their medications. As for Belfiore’s case, it’s difficult to believe that an osteopathic physician, a physician whose focus is treating bone, joint and muscle pain, would not be aware of a pain medication’s addictive properties – particularly one as widely used as oxycodone.