July 31, 2012 in Health

2 doctors plead not guilty in ‘pill mill’ deaths

Paula Mcmahon Sun Sentinel (MCT)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Two South Florida doctors pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to federal charges their prescription writing at so-called pill mill clinics contributed to the deaths of nine people.

Doctors Cynthia Cadet and Joseph Castronuovo both face several charges in connection with their work at several pain clinics in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

If convicted of the most serious charge — possession with intent to distribute controlled substances resulting in death — the two could face life in prison and up to a $2 million fine.

Federal prosecutors charged Cadet, 42, of Parkland, Fla., with contributing to the deaths of seven people treated at clinics, primarily in Boca Raton and Lake Worth.

They charged Castronuovo, 72, of Key Largo, Fla., in connection with the deaths of two people treated at the West Palm Beach clinic where he did most of his work.

Both doctors spoke only briefly in response to questions from U.S. Magistrate Judge William Matthewman at their arraignments in federal court in West Palm Beach on Tuesday morning.

The physicians will remain free on bond pending their trials.

Federal prosecutors said they both prescribed the pain medicine oxycodone and other prescription drugs that resulted in the nine deaths.

Cadet and Castronuovo previously were charged in a federal and state investigation of pill mills in South Florida. They were among 13 doctors and 19 other individuals charged last year with racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and drug-related charges related to clinics operated by twin brothers, Christopher and Jeffrey George. All but a few of those charged have reached plea agreements, but Cadet and Castronuovo have fought the allegations against them.

Prosecutors allege that Cadet ordered 876,000 oxycodone pills between December 2008 and March 2010 and that Castronuovo ordered 388,600 oxycodone pills between February 2009 and March 2010.

According to the charges, the two provided access to the extremely addictive drugs to patients, most of whom traveled to South Florida from other states, without performing tests to determine whether they had real medical conditions and needed the treatments.

The people who prosecutors said died as a result appeared to be from Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and northern Florida according to court documents and other public records.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email