In a case stemming from the opioid addiction crisis, the U-S Supreme Court appears ready to side with two doctors, one from Casper, serving long prison terms for writing thousands of prescriptions for pain medication in short periods.
The justices signaled Tuesday they would rule that the trials of Shakeel Kahn, who also practiced in Arizona, and Xiulu Ruan of Alabama were unfair because they couldn’t mount a “good faith” defense that they did not intend any harm to patients.
The case comes to the court amid record numbers of drug overdose deaths, many from the highly lethal opioid fentanyl, but the questions from the justices showed they were less interested in what the doctors did than in the fairness of their trials.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh said the stakes are so high – decades in prison – that prosecutors must prove the doctors knew they were illegally prescribing powerful pain drugs in violation of federal law.
Ruan is serving 21 years and Kahn up to 25. If the Supreme Court agrees with their arguments, both would get at least new trials if not full dismissal of charges. A decision is expected by June.
Ruan and a partner wrote nearly 67,000 prescriptions for painkillers in 2014 alone and grossed $20-million dollars between 2012 and a raid in 2015.
Khan wrote nearly 15,000 prescriptions for controlled substances from 2011 to 2017 totalling nearly 2.2-million pills, nearly half of them oxycodone.
A patient in Arizona died of an overdose in 2015 and one of Khan’s convictions was for unlawfully dispensing the drugs that killed him.