FRESNO, California: A Modesto physician, Sawtantra Kumar Chopra, 71, was arrested recently, charged with prescribing opioids to patients outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.
On April 19, a federal grand jury in Fresno brought a 22-count indictment against Chopra. He was arrested at his home in Modesto.
U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra made the announcement last week.
According to the indictment, between March 2017 and March 2018, on 22 occasions Chopra prescribed highly addictive, commonly abused prescription drugs, including hydrocodone, alprazolam (Xanax), and Promethazine with codeine syrup — outside the usual course of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose. These controlled substances affect the central nervous system and may only be prescribed when medically required.
This case is the product of an investigation by the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse Drug Diversion Team, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the IRS Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Vincenza Rabenn is prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Chopra faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison.
“Medical professionals who abuse their position of trust and fuel the opioid epidemic for profit will be held responsible,” said Becerra. “Prescription drug abuse is a serious public health crisis that harms families and communities throughout California. Combatting the epidemic and healing our communities takes a team effort. At the California Department of Justice, we will use every tool at our disposal to prosecute bad actors and protect the public.”
Scott stated: “Diversion of drugs with a legitimate purpose to those who abuse them or sell to abusers is a costly and dangerous enterprise. Fortunately, with the cooperative efforts of our state and local partners, we have the ability to track powerful prescription drugs and find those who attempt to divert them. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has made it a top priority to prosecute those who engage in prescription drug diversion.”
“Physicians prescribing powerful medications without legitimate medical purpose is both wrong and illegal,” stated DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Jerry A. Miller. “DEA will continue to use every tool available to hold unscrupulous practitioners accountable.”