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Doctor once employed by Steelers addicted to Vicodin, says prosecutor

| Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012, 12:02 a.m.
Dr. Richard A. Rydze of the Strip District was on the Steelers' medical staff for 22 years until 2007, when he became the target of a federal investigation into human growth hormone trafficking. In March 2011, federal agents raided his Optimal Health Care LLC office on First Avenue, Downtown, which he opened in 2007, according to the indictment.  
Tribune-Review file
Dr. Richard A. Rydze of the Strip District was on the Steelers' medical staff for 22 years until 2007, when he became the target of a federal investigation into human growth hormone trafficking. In March 2011, federal agents raided his Optimal Health Care LLC office on First Avenue, Downtown, which he opened in 2007, according to the indictment. Tribune-Review file

A prominent doctor facing 185 federal charges that include drug trafficking is addicted to the narcotic painkiller Vicodin, a federal prosecutor said Monday.

To feed his habit, Dr. Richard A. Rydze, 62, of the Strip District forged prescriptions in another doctor's name and issued them to Rydze's deceased father, said special Assistant U.S. Attorney Carol Skutnik.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Mitchell released Rydze — a former doctor for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the FBI's field office — on home confinement with a $100,000 unsecured bond and ordered Rydze to surrender his prescription pads.

“He's not going to work,” the judge said. “He's going to stay home.”

Skutnik urged Mitchell to keep Rydze in jail while he awaits trial because he continued to traffic in human growth hormones, anabolic steroids and painkillers after agents twice raided his medical office and the Drug Enforcement Administration suspended his ability to prescribe drugs.

Before the second raid, he gathered patient records and began altering them to hide what he was doing, she said.

“He has thumbed his nose at this investigation,” Skutnik said.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Marketa Sims argued that Rydze has ties to the community and showed no intent to flee even though he knew investigators were watching him since 2007. She did not address whether he's an addict.

“Everything he cares about is here — his wife, his kids, his practice,” Sims said.

She argued that Rydze didn't understand that he lost his ability to prescribe drugs but understands that now.

Rydze kept his medical license and has been working as medical director for Little Sisters of the Poor's home for seniors in Brighton Heights.

A grand jury indicted Rydze for health care fraud, obstruction of justice and drug trafficking. The indictment accuses him of trafficking in painkillers since 2005 and steroids and hormones since at least 2007.

The Steelers employed Rydze on the team's medical staff for 22 years until 2007, when investigators questioned him about his use of a personal credit card to buy about $150,000 worth of human growth hormones and testosterone from a Florida pharmacy.

UPMC, which provides doctors for the Steelers, fired Rydze.

DEA Agent Stephen Moluse testified Monday that human growth hormones are the only drugs for which any “off-label” use is illegal. Rydze changed his story over the years about why he prescribed the hormones but knew his actions were illegal, Moluse said.

“It was clear he should not be prescribing those medications,” he testified.

Rydze asked his brother and other people whose names he put on prescriptions they never received to lie to investigators, the agent said.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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