'Oxy Doc' Convicted for Prescribing Opioid That Caused OD Death

Alicia Ault

July 27, 2018

A federal jury in Brooklyn, New York, convicted a physician last week known as the "Oxy Doc" for causing a patient's overdose death.

Martin Tesher, MD, was found guilty a little more than a year after his arrest. Tesher, 83, has not yet been sentenced but faces a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of life in prison, according to the US Department of Justice.

The federal jury convicted Tesher of illegally prescribing oxycodone to five patients without legitimate medical purpose, including one patient — Nicholas Benedetto — who died on March 5, 2016, 2 days after receiving oxycodone and fentanyl from the doctor. Benedetto had been struggling with a substance use disorder, but Tesher continued to prescribe him addictive medications, according to the Staten Island Real-Time News.

"The Department of Justice is relentlessly pursuing criminals like him: we have charged more than 200 doctors with opioid-related crimes since the beginning of last year," said US Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a statement. "We are going to keep pursuing these cases because they help cut off the supply of drugs and stop fraudsters from exploiting vulnerable people."

More Than 14,000 Prescriptions

According to Tesher's arrest warrant, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began investigating the physician in 2015 after one of his patients (a confidential informant who cooperated in the hopes of leniency for a probation violation) alleged that the doctor was overprescribing oxycodone.

A subsequent DEA investigation determined that during a 5-year period (June 2012 to January 2017), Tesher wrote more than 14,000 oxycodone prescriptions, totaling more than 2.2 million pills. The DEA called that "a disproportionally high number for a General Practitioner who maintains a family practice."

Tesher had no training in pain management but did have a waiver to prescribe medication-assisted therapy for patients with substance use disorders.

The DEA interviewed a number of patients who said that Tesher prescribed them oxycodone despite their testing positive for illicit drugs and despite Tesher's being informed that the patients were in treatment for opiate addiction.

After his conviction, according to the New York Daily News, Tesher said, "I don't want to be insulting to the jury, but they clearly hadn't a clue." He added, "These are people who knew nothing about medicine and called me a murderer because one guy decided to wildly overdose."

One in a Long Line

Tesher is the latest physician be convicted for causing an opioid overdose death.

In May, Michael Belfiore, MD, of Merrick, New York was convicted of two counts of illegal distribution of oxycodone causing the deaths of two patients and 26 counts of illegal distribution of oxycodone. He awaits sentencing.

In July, a US District Court judge sentenced Johnny Clyde Benjamin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon who practiced in Vero Beach, Florida, to life in prison for causing the overdose death of a female patient.

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