Friday, March 22, 2019

Albany doctor pleads guilty to illegal prescription of painkillers; federal prosecutors said some resulted in deaths

A doctor in Appalachian Southern Kentucky pleaded guilty March 18 to 13 counts of prescribing controlled substances without any legitimate medical purpose and outside the course of professional medical practice, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Kentucky announced March 22.

Dr. Michael L. Cummings, 63, a family practitioner in Albany, faces a maximum prison term of 145 years, a combined maximum fine of $7.25 million, and three years of supervised release. Sentencing is scheduled for June 19 before District Court Chief Judge Greg Stivers. 

Cummings' plea agreement with the Justice Department says that in 2012-14, he prescribed the painkillers Oxycodone, OxyContin, Endocet and hydrocodone, the anti-anxiety medicines Valium and alprazolam, the appetite suppressant phentermine, and the sleep aid zolpidem tartrate, all "without any legitimate medical purpose and outside the course of professional medical practice."

Two years ago, Cummings was charged with 18 counts of illegal prescriptions "resulting in the deaths of three patients" in 2014, the U.S. attorney's office said at the time. The news releases used initials to identify the decedents; one of those named in the 2014 release was not named in the latest one. "Cummings was initially charged with prescribing drugs that resulted" in those deaths, "but federal prosecutors dropped those three counts of the indictment," Bill Estep reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.

"Federal prosecutors said in a motion that Cummings was one of the most prolific prescribers in the state between 2012 and 2014, even though Clinton County has only about 10,000 residents," Estep reports. That "caught the attention of federal authorities, who investigated along with Kentucky State Police. Police watched Cummings’ office in Albany and saw cars from outside the county and state, and also got records showing his patients were filling prescriptions outside the county." That indicated “a medical practice that attracted and/or catered to people who were either abusing or diverting prescription pain medications,” the plea agreement said.
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