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OxyContin - A Prescribing Doctor May Face Murder Charges

A News Analysis By Terence T. Gorski
GORSKI-CENAPS Web Publications
Published On: July 30, 2001          Updated On: April 13, 2002
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

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OxyContin - A Prescribing Doctor May Face Murder Charges 010730 

C. Ron Allen, a staff writer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported on May 19, 2001 that Dr. Denis Deonarine was arrested and charged with improperly dispensing prescriptions for OxyContin.  Dr. Deonarine could be charged with murder because four of his patients have allegedly overdosed on OxyContin prescribed by the Doctor.  Deonarine, 56, has not been charged with any deaths. State Attorney Barry Krischer said he would, however, present evidence to a grand jury next month and seek murder charges against the doctor.

Authorities on Thursday arrested Deonarine, 56, on charges that he defrauded Medicare of $67,000 in improper prescription of the pills, which when chewed, or crushed then injected or snorted, can give the user a sudden high.  Deonarine is accused of filing 72 unauthorized Medicare claims, according to an arrest report.  

Wayna Marie McCullom, 42, the doctor's office manager, also was charged with defrauding the Medicaid program. She was released Thursday on $3,000 bail.

"The doctor has done nothing wrong," attorney Richard Lubin said of Dr. Denis Deonarine. "Every prescription was based on medical necessity. There is no basis in the law for first-degree murder or for homicide charges. It's absolutely unfounded."

"This drug is legal. It's for chronic pain, and doctors are suppose to prescribe this for people with chronic pains," he said. "This man runs a legitimate practice. Let's start arresting every liquor store that sells liquor or every store owner that sells tobacco."

The percentage of patients who received prescriptions from Deonarine is "miniscule" compared with his total number of patients, Lubin said.

This year, authorities in Palm Beach County have linked OxyContin, a time-release synthetic pain medication, to 36 deaths, 14 of which occurred in April.  Abuse of OxyContin, which is normally prescribed to patients with cancer and other chronic pain, has become widespread.

Deonarine, the first doctor in the county to be charged in connection with OxyContin prescriptions, is being held on bail of $1 million. Authorities fear that Deonarine, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, might flee the country. A hearing to reduce his bail is scheduled for May 24, Lubin said.

At a news conference this week, state attorney's investigators painted a picture that Deonarine may be funneling money earned from doling out the drug to an offshore account in Deonarine's name, Lubin said.  That account, Lubin said, was established 15 years before OxyContin was sold to the manufacturer.

"There is not one shred of evidence that any of the money was earned in an improper way. This man works 16, 17, 18 hours a day. He has admitted thousand of patients a day. The implication that he made his money by OxyContin is ridiculous."

Officials also said Deonarine bought Jaguars and his home with cash, to which Lubin calls "ridiculous."

"He is not charged with money laundering, drug trafficking or homicide," Lubin said. The prosecutors said he bought a Jaguar and didn't take a loan, and they said he doesn't have a mortgage on his house. The man had been a doctor for over 30 years, and God bless him if he can buy his home by writing a check on it."

Authorities arrested Deonarine after an agent, posing as a Vietnam veteran with knee pain, visited the doctor's office and was given prescriptions without a complete review of his history, prosecutors said.

C. Ron Allen can be reached at or 561-243-6611.

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