Pill Mill Doctor: PA Physician Arrested For Over-Prescribing Opioids, Five Patient Deaths
Amid an ever-worsening opioid epidemic, a physician from Mount Carmel has just been arrested for allegedly operating his office as a pill mill and contributing to the death of five patients. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Dr. Raymond Kraynak, 60, was indicted this week on 19 counts, including drug delivery resulting in death.
The doctor was arrested at his practice by DEA agents last Thursday and appeared before U.S. Magistrate District Judge Schwab.
Kraynak operated two offices, known as Keystone Medicine Associates, in Mount Carmel and Shamokin. Officials, such as Assistant U.S. Attorney William Behe, want Kraynak to be forced to forfeit his offices and medical license and pay $500,000 in fines.
In a news release, U.S. Attorney David Freed stated that Kraynak prescribed an estimated 2.7 million units of fentanyl, oxycodone/Oxycontin, and hydrocodone to nearly 2,900 patients, mostly from Northumberland and Schuylkill counties, between January 2016-July 2017.
These numbers put him squarely at the top of Pennsylvania’s opioid prescribers. The indictment notes that Kraynak prescribed more than 3,600,000 oxycodone pills between May 2012-January 2016, a number that represents 80% of all controlled substances he prescribed.
The indictment also accuses the doctor of prescribing opioids “outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose” between 2005-2016.
Freed stated that the Kraynak was responsible for the death of five patients from 2013-2015 due to unlawful opioid distribution.
The indictment claims that the doctor was negligent or willfully indifferent, and it alleges that he failed to examine patients to whom he prescribed opioids, and did not justify the prescriptions or increasing doses. He purportedly failed to keep track of pill counts and sometimes permitted patients to dictate their own prescriptions.
Finally, the indictment states that he didn’t refer patients to specialists nor did he advise them on the benefits and risks of opioids.
Officials said at a news conference that the investigation was initiated after an examination of Pennsylvania Prescription Drug Monitoring Program data and complaints about the doctor over-prescribing.
“My office will relentlessly pursue medical professionals who divert prescription drugs from their intended purpose, especially when that diversion results in death.”
Kraynak faces a minimum of 20 years to life in connection with each of the five patient deaths, in addition to 12 counts alleging that he was prescribing opioids outside the prudent course of practice. He also faces two counts of maintaining drug-involved premises, each of which could carry up to 20 years.
The names of patients were not released in the indictment or during the subsequent press conference.
On Friday, he was released on $500,000 unsecured bail and relinquished his DEA card at the hearing, which means that he can no longer prescribe controlled substances.
The investigation began after federal agents served search warrants at both of the doctor’s offices and Community Pharmacy in March 2016. Since that time, Behe alleges that Kraynak’s opioid prescriptions increased by 50%. Kraynak was also warned by the state in 2006 about his prescribing practices and entered an agreement in 2010 regarding these practices.
A Dramatic Hearing
A shackled Kraynak said little, and plead not guilty to the charges. Attorney Thomas Thornton, an appointed federal public defender, argued on the doctor’s behalf stating that Kraynak should be released from custody before trial and was no danger to the community:
“There aren’t enough doctors in that area at all,” he stated.
“I find it stunning the defendant is requesting for his release to return to practice,” said Behe, the assistant U.S. attorney for Pennsylvania’s Middle District. “Five people are dead as a result of his prescribing of controlled substances.”
“If he’s released, he has the power to resume what he’s been doing.”
Behe also added that the doctor refused to forfeit his license to prescribe at the time of arrest.
Kraynak Is Not The First
Back in October, another Pennsylvania doctor, Andrzej Zielke, was arrested for allegedly overprescribing medication, and was charged with the illegal distribution of narcotics and fraud.
The affidavit contended that the physician was operating a primarily cash-only business out of his Gibsonia office and failed to conduct medical exams before writing prescriptions.
It also states that a former patient alerted authorities to Zielke’s pill mill and that his waiting room was often packed with patients, sometimes sleeping. Furthermore, it alleges that at least three of his patients had died from overdoses.
Reports like these are shocking in light of the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States. This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report stating that the average life expectancy has dropped for the second year in a row, largely due to increases in drug overdose deaths.
Of the 63,300 people who died in 2016 – 21% more than 2015 – opioids were responsible for the majority (more than 42,000.) This is the first two-year decline since the early 1960’s.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology
References For Pill Mill Doctor