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26 People Indicted In Painkiller Scheme

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DETROIT (AP) – A Detroit-area pharmacist who controls more than 20 Michigan pharmacies conspired with doctors and others to illegally bill the government for painkiller prescriptions worth millions, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday.

Babubhai “Bob” Patel of Canton Township was among 26 people, including four doctors, indicted in a scheme to reap millions from Medicaid and the government’s five-year-old Medicare drug program.

Since 2009, Patel’s pharmacies have dispensed at least 4.6 million doses of the painkiller Vicodin and at least 1.5 million doses of Xanax for anxiety, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The government said drugs were medically unnecessary or never provided.

The government accused four doctors of getting kickbacks and other benefits by writing prescriptions and directing people to go to Patel’s pharmacies. The indictment says he also used recruiters to find people willing to share their Medicare number.

Prosecutors want Patel, 49, locked up until trial. He was ordered to jail Tuesday until a formal detention hearing Wednesday. The identity of his attorney was not immediately known.

Patel’s pharmacies have billed Medicaid and Medicare for more than $57 million since January 2006, according to the indictment.

“The diversion of prescription medications coupled with the fraudulent billing of Medicare creates a toxic scenario that can place an individual’s health and safety at risk as well as taxpayers’ dollars,” said Lamont Pugh III, regional head of the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Patel’s 26 pharmacies have different names and are in Detroit, Southfield, Warren, Dearborn, Bay City, Taylor, Berkley, Pontiac, Troy, Hazel Park, Oak Park, Bloomfield Hills, Livonia, Saginaw, Commerce Township, Kalamazoo and Roseville.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.

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