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California Family Doctor Found Guilty Of Illegally Prescribing Opioids


In our last blog, we tackled a recent story from Alaska involving the illegal prescribing and distribution of opioids. As was made clear in the post, America’s opioid epidemic is far-reaching. From coast to coast, drug overdoses – often due to the abuse of opioids – are resulting in numerous deaths. The state of California is no stranger to such tragedies. This was evidenced by the Northern District of California branch of the U.S. Attorney's Office last week Friday.


In their report, they announce the conviction of a San Jose-based family doctor who illegally prescribed opioids. 58 year-old, Donald Siao was found guilty on all twelve counts of distributing the controlled substances, Oxycodone and Hydrocodone. The drugs were dispensed outside of the usual course of his professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.


Siao wrote over 8,000 prescriptions within a one-year span.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office report reveals that Siao wrote no less 8,201 prescriptions for controlled substance medications between May 2016 and May 2017. An investigation into Siao’s actions involved undercover law enforcement agents posing as patients. They found that Siao prescribed Oxycodone and Hydrocodone in growing quantities over the course of seventeen visits by four separate agents.


“The undercover agents received prescriptions from Siao despite complaining of only vague pain or discomfort, requesting specific opioids by name, and admitting to sharing the pills with friends and coworkers,” the report details.


Siao prescribed dangerous opioids to his patients in spite of red flags.


Mother and son patients, identified only as E.J. and A.J. respectively, showed warning signs regarding opioid use. E.J. repeatedly claimed that her pills had been lost or stolen. Nevertheless, Siao continued to prescribe opioids to her. This was even after Siao received an alert from E.J.’s insurer regarding her opioid prescriptions. He was also advised that E.J. was jailed for selling pills. This information was actually documented in Siao’s medical file for E.J.


“Similarly, Siao prescribed opioids to the son A.J. after he overdosed twice,” reads the report, “Siao continued to prescribe opioids to A.J. after A.J. repeatedly claimed the opioids were lost or stolen and even after he had been flagged by his prior medical provider for drug-seeking behavior, after his mother reported he had stolen her medications, and after A.J.’s mother E.J. fatally overdosed on opioids. These facts were all documented in Siao’s medical file for A.J.”


Siao refused to heed warnings that his prescriptions were dangerous.


Trial evidence showed that Siao was aware that the DEA closely scrutinized opioid prescriptions. In fact, he noted to one of the undercover officers, who was posing as a patient, that a nationwide epidemic was underway. Clearly, Siao was aware that numerous people were both addicted to and dying from opioid overdoses. Nevertheless, he continued to prescribe opioids to the agents upon their request and with little to no physical examinations.


Sometimes, the visits only lasted a few minutes. During an interview with law enforcement agents in November 2018, Siao even admitted that he was aware of the California Medical Board’s Guidelines for Prescribing Controlled Substances for Pain. He also admitted that he had been taught about the dangers of addiction and how to identify drug-seeking patients during trial. Siao is scheduled for sentencing on November 7, 2023. He faces up to 20 years in prison per count.


Are you an attorney currently working a healthcare fraud case?


The clinical experts at Allegiant Experts can help you! Please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 407-217-5831. You may also email us at info@allegiantexperts.com.

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