A Pennsylvania doctor was indicted Thursday on 19 counts, including charges regarding the deaths of five patients he had prescribed opioids too, according to the Department of Justice. It alleges that Dr. Raymond Kraynak caused their deaths between 2013 and 2015 by "unlawfully distributing and dispensing controlled substances to them."
Prosecutors also say Kraynak prescribed nearly 3 million doses of opioids from January 2016 through July 2017.
Kraynak, 60, of Mt. Carmel, was arrested Thursday. Prosecutors say he made a first appearance before a federal magistrate on Thursday and is scheduled to appear Friday morning for a bail hearing in federal court.
He will plead not guilty, his lawyer, public defender Thomas Thornton said. Kraynak treats people in a small part of Pennsylvania where they don't have doctors, Thornton said.
"At this point, we really haven't had a chance to see the evidence against him," his lawyer said. "We're more concerned about his patients right now."
The US attorney's office alleges that Kraynak was the top prescriber in the state for opioids, prescribing about 2.7 million doses of oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxycontin, and fentanyl within 19 months. Those prescriptions were written for approximately 2,838 patients.
"The sheer number of pills prescribed in this case is staggering," said US Attorney David Freed in a statement. "Death or serious injury was the inevitable result of this defendant's conduct."
Prosecutors allege that Kraynak had prescribed the drugs "without conducting a proper medical examination, inadequately verifying the patient's medical complaint, and failing to assess the risk of abuse by individual patients."
Kraynak faces 19 charges: five are regarding the patients' deaths, 12 counts of prescribing controlled substances outside of the usual course of professional practice, and two counts of maintaining drug-involved premises at his offices in Mt. Carmel and Shamokin, Pennsylvania.
The government seeks the forfeiture of two medical offices, his medical license and $500,000, according to a statement from the DOJ announcing the indictment.
Kraynak faces a mandatory 20 years to life in prison for each of the counts involving the five patients who allegedly died, if convicted. The other 14 charges are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The charges were the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration with assistance from state and local police. The Pennsylvania and US attorney generals also assisted.
Kraynak has a license in osteopathic medicine and had come to the attention of the state board for his prescription practices. In 2012, he agreed to complete a medical course after prescribing large amounts of "various controlled substances" to seven patients from January 2007 through June 2008. The record does not identify what he had prescribed. The State Board of Osteopathic Medicine fined Kraynak $2,500.
The US is in the throes of an opioid epidemic, as more Americans have become dependent or abuse prescription pain pills and street drugs. More than 63,600 lives were lost to a drug overdose in 2016, marking the most lethal year yet of the drug overdose epidemic, according to a new report released this week.