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Coraopolis physician pleads guilty to illegal Suboxone distribution, Medicare fraud

Jeff Himler
| Thursday, July 19, 2018, 8:54 p.m.
Suboxone, which reduces the withdrawal symptoms experienced by thos battling addiction to heroin and other opiates, comes in tablet form and as a thin film strip that dissolves under the tongue. It is not addictive, and patients can’t overdose on it.
Suboxone, which reduces the withdrawal symptoms experienced by thos battling addiction to heroin and other opiates, comes in tablet form and as a thin film strip that dissolves under the tongue. It is not addictive, and patients can’t overdose on it.

A Coraopolis physician has pleaded guilty to federal charges of unlawfully prescribing and distributing a drug commonly used to treat opioid addiction.

Dr. Madhu Aggarwal, 68, also admitted responsibility for fraudulent claims to Medicare to cover the costs of the illegal prescriptions for buprenorphine, known by the brand names Subutex and Suboxone.

She entered a guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab in Pittsburgh, for three counts of unlawfully distributing controlled substances, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and health care fraud.

Aggarwal, who was practicing at Redirections Treatment Advocates, a Suboxone clinic in Washington, conspired with others to create and submit the unlawful prescriptions, U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady said Thursday.

Aggarwal is free on bond pending sentencing, set for Nov. 28. She faces a maximum penalty per count of 10 years in prison, a fine of $500,000, or both, for the controlled substances offenses, and imprisonment for up to 10 years and a fine of $250,000 for the fraud charge.

Four other doctors who worked at Redirections Treatment Advocates drug treatment centers in Washington County and West Virginia recently were indicted on similar charges, as was an employee in charge of operations at the practice.

The indictments came as part of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit created last year by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A part of the Department of Justice, the unit uses data to target opioid-related health care fraud.

The FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General and Internal Revenue Service were among agencies taking part in the investigation.

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Correction: This story was updated to clarify Dr. Madhu Aggarwal’s gender.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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