Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
A former Las Cruces physician, Pawankumar Jain, 66, who was charged with illegally prescribing opioids that led to the deaths of several patients, was sentenced last week by Senior District Judge Robert C. Brack to nine years in federal prison for illegally dispensing drugs and health care fraud.
Jain, who has been held in federal detention since his indictment five years ago, sought a sentence of time served because of his age and ill health.
According to his 2016 plea agreement, Jain admitted he operated a high-volume “pain management” practice in Las Cruces, and frequently performed only “cursory” examinations of his patients before prescribing narcotics to them.
Federal prosecutors argued that Jain should receive a sentence of nine years because he pleaded guilty to a serious drug trafficking offense and four people died as a direct result of his prescriptions.
U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson said, “Doctors who betray our trust and put their own financial gain ahead of the well-being of their patients by prescribing narcotics without medical justification are directly fueling our nation’s opioid crisis.”
In his plea agreement, Jain admitted giving one patient a superficial examination, then prescribing the patient, identified as “M.E.B.” in court records, two prescriptions for methadone that were outside normal medical practice.
Each prescription was for 270 tablets of 10 mg methadone and M.E.B. died two days after filling the second prescription from methadone-related respiratory depression.
Jain’s health care fraud charge stems from his admission that he knew the illegal prescriptions would be submitted to Medicare for payment and he intended that Medicare pay for the prescriptions.
Jain’s attorney, Mary Stillinger, argued that Jain “lived many years as a law-abiding, contributing member of society. His first offense came in the later years of his career, under the stress of an overburdened practice.”
“Doctors take an oath to treat and care for patients who come to them for help,” stated Special Agent in Charge Kyle W. Williamson of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s El Paso Division. “Dr. Jain ignored this oath and continued to overprescribe, which eventually resulted in the deaths of four patients.”
Jain was educated in India and Europe before coming to the United States, where he became a naturalized citizen.
His medical license was suspended in June 2012, and revoked in December 2012 by the New Mexico Medical Board.