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A.G. Underwood Announces Indictment Of New York Doctor For Manslaughter In Opioid Death

News from the New York Attorney General's Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
June 26, 2018

Attorney General's Office Press Office / 212-416-8060 
nyag.pressoffice@ag.ny.gov

A.G. UNDERWOOD ANNOUNCES INDICTMENT OF NEW YORK DOCTOR FOR MANSLAUGHTER IN OPIOID DEATH

74-Count Indictment Charges Physician Barry Sloan with Recklessly Causing Patient’s Overdose Death by Knowingly Selling Fentanyl Prescriptions 

Sloan Also Charged with Multiple Counts of Criminal Sale, Reckless Endangerment, and Health Care Fraud

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood today announced the indictment of physician Barry Sloan, D.O., 60, for Manslaughter in the Second Degree, for recklessly causing the death of a patient, L.W., a Manhattan resident who died at the age of 36 from a fentanyl overdose. Sloan is also charged with multiple counts of Criminal Sale of a Prescription for a Controlled Substance or of a Controlled Substance by a Practitioner or Pharmacist, and other charges arising from knowingly and unlawfully selling a prescription for a controlled substance other than in good faith in the course of his professional practice, to L.W. and four other former patients.

“The opioid epidemic is ravaging New York’s families – and, too often, there are drug dealers in white coats fueling the crisis in order to line their own pockets,” said Attorney General Underwood. “Our office will ensure that those who abandon their medical oaths are brought to justice, and continue to use every tool we have to tackle the evolving opioid epidemic.”

As detailed in the indictment and court proceedings, Sloan has held himself out as a pain management specialist in New York and New Jersey since at least 2011 through 2016. During that time, respective state data show that he prescribed controlled substances over 70,000 times, the majority of which were for Schedule II drugs—the most risky and addictive drugs, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. One of the most deadly -- and a prime component of the national opioid crisis -- is oxycodone 30 mg tablets. State data shows Sloan prescribed oxycodone 30 mg over 26,000 times to approximately 2,000 unique patients — for a total of over four million pills, with an estimated street value of over $100 million. Among New York Medicaid’s 17,000 prescribers of oxycodone 15 mg and 30 mg pills, Sloan was the 18th highest prescriber. 

In addition, Sloan was the fourth highest prescriber in New York of “Subsys,” a powerful narcotic approved by the FDA solely to treat “breakthrough” pain in late-stage cancer patients. The active ingredient in Subsys is fentanyl, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states is 100 times more powerful than morphine and 50 times more powerful than heroin; it is the most potent chemical of its class legally allowed to be used in humans. 

Sloan regularly took cash from his patients for each office visit, averaging at approximately $200 per office visit, as alleged in the indictment and court proceedings.

The indictment alleges that defendant Sloan issued multiple prescriptions for controlled substances to L.W. every month for over a year, from mid-2013 to mid-2014.  Four days before L.W.’s death from overdose in the early morning of August 9, 2014, Sloan wrote two separate prescriptions for L.W., each for a different dosage of 60 separate single-use spray bottles of Subsys. The indictment alleges that, before meeting Sloan, L.W. had been a generally healthy person.

The New York County grand jury indictment further alleges that Sloan criminally sold prescriptions to L.W. and four other persons and thereby engaged in Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree between June 2012 and June 2016.

The indictment further alleges that a portion of the Medicaid cost of such fraudulent prescriptions issued by Sloan were paid by Healthfirst, a Medicaid Managed Care Organization contracted to the State of New York, constituting the crime of Health Care Fraud in the Third Degree; Sloan also further falsified business records to obtain prior authorization for narcotic medications. 

In total, the indictment alleges 74 counts of felony criminal offenses.

“Dr. Sloan became a drug dealer in a white coat who violated his Hippocratic oath to ‘do no harm,’ and callously contributed to the opioid epidemic plaguing this city and our society while stealing from Medicare and Medicaid,” said Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General’s New York Region (HHS-OIG). “HHS-OIG will continue to work with our law enforcement partners in an effort to curtail the opioid abuse epidemic, protect patient quality of care, and safeguard the taxpayer dollars that go to all of our federally funded health care programs.”

The public is advised that Barry Sloan’s license to prescribe controlled substances was revoked by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.  Persons with knowledge of Sloan’s narcotic prescribing practices may assist in obtaining evidence and information related to this investigation by contacting the New York State Medicaid Fraud Control Unit at (800) 771-7755, or online at https://ag.ny.gov/comments-mfcu .

The Attorney General encourages anyone exposed to over-prescription of opioids to seek medical care or reach out to the New York State HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY.

Barry Sloan was arrested today by police investigators from the Attorney General’s Office. The case was arraigned before Hon. Maxwell Wiley Supreme Court, New York County, and adjourned to August 8. Bail was set at $75,000.

The top charges against Sloan are class C felonies, with a maximum sentence on each count of 5 to 15 years imprisonment.

The charges the defendant are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proved guilty in court.

The Attorney General thanked Special Agent April Cameron and Assistant Special Agent in Charge Naomi Gruchacz and their colleagues at the New York field office of the Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Attorney General would also like to thank the New York State Department of Health, Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) and Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement (BNE), the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, and the Office of the New Jersey Attorney General for their valuable assistance in this investigation.

The matter was investigated by staff of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, which investigates fraud, waste, and abuse in the Medicaid program.  MFCU Investigators James Briscoe, Thomas Dowd, Shavaun Clawson, and Anthony Caban investigated the matter, under the supervision of Supervising Investigators Dominick DiGennaro and Ronald Lynch, with assistance from Deputy Chief Investigator Kenneth Morgan. The financial and technical analysis was performed by Senior Special Auditor-Investigator Matthew Tandle and Special Auditor-Investigator Colin Ware, under the supervision of Regional Chief Auditor Stacey Millis, with additional data analysis by Lead Data Scientist Steven Salotti. 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General David Abrams and Todd Pettigrew, under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General Thomas O’Hanlon, MFCU Chief of Criminal Investigations – Downstate. The New York Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is led by Director Amy Held and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Paul J. Mahoney. The Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Division is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Margaret Garnett.

The Attorney General’s office is using multi-levered strategy to tackle New York’s evolving opioid epidemic includes:

  • Launching a bipartisan multistate investigation into whether opioid manufacturers and distributors engaged in any unlawful practices in the marketing and distribution of prescription opioids.
  • Bringing New York’s most effective law enforcement resources together in the ongoing SURGE Initiative to root out violent drug trafficking in rural communities and upstate New York. Since launching one year ago today, SURGE has taken down nine major drug trafficking rings across New York – resulting in 302 traffickers taken off the streets.
  • Obtaining settlements with major national and global health insurers including Cigna and Anthem, which insure over 4 million New Yorkers, to remove barriers to life-saving treatment for opioid use disorder. The agreements put an end to the insurers’ policy of requiring prior authorization for medication-assisted treatment (“MAT”), which can lead to significant delays for patients seeking relief from addiction.
  • Creating the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act (“I-STOP”), a series of enhancements to New York’s prescription drug monitoring program that provide doctors with patient’s up-to-date controlled substance prescription history, requires electronic prescriptions, and establishing a safe disposal program providing a place for New Yorkers to get rid of expired and unneeded drugs—thus reducing the likelihood of stolen and forged prescriptions being used to obtain controlled substances from pharmacies. I-STOP reduced “doctor shopping,” a practice in which an individual attempts to obtain the same or similar prescriptions from multiple physicians, by 90% since 2014.
  • Launching the Community Overdose Prevention (“COP”) program, a life-saving initiative that enabled state and local law enforcement officers in the state of New York to carry naloxone, the extremely effective heroin antidote that can immediately reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Since the program’s implementation in April 2014, more than 100 overdoses were reversed using kits provided by the COP program, which distributed over 27,000 kits across the state.
  • Obtaining an agreement with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, to cut and cap the price of naloxone for all agencies in New York State, reducing the price of naloxone by nearly 20 percent.
  • Enforcing Mental Health Parity Laws to reach agreements with six health insurance companies, requiring them to implement sweeping reforms in their administration of behavioral health benefits, in particular relating to medical management practices, coverage of residential treatment for substance abuse, and co-pays for outpatient treatment, and to submit regular compliance reports. The agreements ultimately provided millions of dollars in penalties and over $2 million in restitution for members whose claims were improperly denied.
  • Successfully prosecuting more than ten licensed prescribers including operators of “pill mills” and other unlawful practices for crimes related to improper opioid prescriptions.
  • Urging health insurance companies to review their coverage and payment policies that contribute to the opioid epidemic, as well as sending letters to the country’s three largest pharmacy benefit managers requesting documents, data, and other information regarding how they are addressing the opioid crisis.
  • Launching a new website to help New Yorkers safely dispose of unused opioids.
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