A former doctor and a nurse practitioner were indicted for allegedly over-prescribing medication to patients for a profit. The federal charges allege that the former Needham doctor prescribed unnecessary painkillers to his drug addicted patients in exchange for cash and insurance payments.

The doctor and the nurse were indicted on charges of conspiracy to illegally distribute controlled substances including the distribution of methadone that allegedly resulted in the patient deaths. Authorities believe that this is one of the most significant recent medical malpractice cases to reach a criminal court.

The Boston Globe reports that investigations into the doctor reach as far back as 2003 and that at one time there were probes into two dozen deaths. The doctor’s attorney said that the doctor was aware of criminal investigations into his Boston area medical practice but that he stayed in the area because he was confident in his innocence.

The doctor’s attorney called the deaths “horrible tragedies” and said that he intended to vigorously defend the doctor against the charges. The attorney also said that the doctor has successfully treated “thousands and thousands of patients” and that he acted in good faith without any intent to kill any of his patients.

Federal authorities alleged that the doctor was aware that his patients were addicted to drugs such as cocaine and that the doctor’s prescriptions resulted in “addiction, deteriorated health, overdose and death” because he ignored signs that his patients were illegally using and distributing the medications.

It is unclear whether additional charges will be filed against the doctor or if any wrongful death or civil medical practice lawsuits have been filed against him.

Source: Boston Globe, “Former Needham doctor, nurse practitioner indicted in 6 deaths,” Milton J. Valencia, 3/3/11