Hydrocodone, an opiod-based prescription drug used to treat coughs, colds and respiratory infections, is chemically similar to morphine and other opiate medications, is subject to abuse, and is classified as a Schedule II narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act.
A joint investigation by the Office of Attorney General and the Westmoreland County Drug Task Force found that Dr. Ralph A. Capone, 64, of Greensburg, PA, illegally diverted 268 prescriptions for Hydrocodone syrup, 38 prescriptions for Hydromet syrup and 26 prescriptions for Hydrocodone pills between October 2014 and September 2017. He wrote the prescriptions in the names of his mother, brother, wife, and children, and filled them at local pharmacies without family members’ knowledge.
“This doctor fraudulently obtained prescription drugs for personal use by using the names of his family members, at times even his children,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “Not only is this illegal, it could have impacted the quality of medical care that he was providing to his patients. We will continue to prosecute anyone who illegally abuses prescription drugs, including health care professionals.”
Under Pennsylvania law, physicians are prohibited from prescribing controlled substances to themselves or immediate family members except in emergency situations. Following a recent search warrant at his home, Capone admitted he wrote and filled the prescriptions for personal use.
Felony charges against Capone include multiple counts of acquisition of a controlled substance by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery or deception and identity theft. The case will be prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Tomm Mutschler. Bail was set at $50,000 unsecured, and Capone was released on his own recognizance. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for
Nationwide and in Pennsylvania, opioids are the main driver of fatal drug overdoses. Eighty percent of persons suffering from heroin addiction began by abusing prescription drugs. Through June of 2017, the Office of Attorney General has nearly doubled the number of medical diversion arrests compared with the same time period in 2016. This includes doctors, nurses and other medical personnel charged with illegally diverting prescription drugs.
“We’re fighting this epidemic on every front – from the dealers on street corners to doctors and nurses diverting drugs to the board rooms of pharmaceutical companies,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “This physician put the health care of his own family members at risk while fueling his own addiction.”