Doctor Charged as Drug Dealer in Death of Patients

Peter Steiner, a Louisville psychiatrist, and addiction specialist has been charged with dealing drugs and is accused of recklessly keeping vulnerable patients (dealing with mental health issues and addiction) on potentially addictive and lethal medications. At least 13 of his patients have died over a two-year period. Federal investigators are calling it part of the nation’s largest crackdown on health care fraud.

Despite a pharmacist’s review of multiple patients’ files in 2014 finding that “5 deaths were potentially related to negative outcomes of stimulants” that Steiner prescribed, he was not charged with any of the deaths. Steiner maintains that he is innocent and is awaiting trial. Neither Steiner nor his defense team will comment while the case is ongoing.

Investigation Leads to Concerns

Things began coming to light in 2013 when the Louisville Metro Police were investigating an unrelated crime and learned some concerning details about Steiner’s practice. From that point on it took four years, undercover agents, embedded criminal informants, police surveillance, hidden recording devices, and extensive medical & Medicaid record audits for investigators to uncover exactly what transpired in Steiner’s Louisville and Lebanon, Kentucky offices.

In June 2017, an FBI agent convinced a judge to sign a search warrant that would allow them to inspect Steiner’s offices, computers, and patient files. Federal agents caught the doctor at his St. Matthews office as he was tossing a McDonald’s bag containing marijuana into a trashcan. He also was in possession of two thick envelopes filled with cash, checks, patient names, and amounts.

Steiner Indicted on Several Counts

In February, Steiner was indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury on a charge of misdemeanor drug possession and felony tampering with physical evidence. A federal grand jury indicted Steiner in June on 26 separate counts, which included conspiracy to distribute and lawful distribution, as well as dispensing of controlled substances.
Steiner’s most recent indictments allege that Steiner was distributing addictive opioids, which were not in fact necessary. He has also been accused of prescribing the drug fentanyl, which is often prescribed by oncologists for the purpose of easing their terminally ill cancer patients’ pain. Illicit fentanyl is currently Kentucky’s number one killer.

In March, Steiner was prevented from practicing medicine while the case is pending. The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, which issued the emergency order, noted that it had probable cause to believe that Steiner “constitutes a danger to the health, welfare, and safety of his patients or the general public.” The doctor, who denies any wrongdoing, is currently fighting his suspension.

Pharmacists Notice Red Flags

Before the federal charges came down, multiple pharmacists in Louisville, Central Kentucky, and Southern Indiana alerted investigators of their concerns about Steiner, while others had stopped filling the doctor’s prescriptions. One patient even told investigators that Steiner had prescribed him so much medication that had he not sold the excess of it he would likely have died of an overdose. A mother of a patient explained that her adult child had overdosed three times in three years on drugs that Steiner prescribed. Investigators found that the patient had been prescribed 510 pills in just two months. Despite being covered by Medicaid insurance, Steiner also allegedly charged $125 to $150 for each office visit.

Doctors’ Status Creates Trust

Doctors are assumed to be trustworthy, as they have received education and degrees specializing in the field of medicine. Unfortunately, that trust is too often abused, and his or her patients must deal with the fallout. Now that Steiner is facing these charges it seems that he will finally have to answer to the consequences of his alleged actions.

Posted in: Medical Malpractice