Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Doctor: Cops tricked me to get OxyContin

The Associated Press

        PIKEVILLE — A Harlan physician facing 20 years in prison for prescribing drugs without a legitimate medical purpose said Monday that police deceived him to get OxyContin.

        Dr. Ali Sawaf took the witness stand in his own defense Monday and was expected to finish under cross-examination today.

        The jury could begin deliberations either late today or Wednesday.

        Dr. Sawaf said police officers investigating his prescribing practices lied to him about their ailments to get him to prescribe an assortment of painkillers, including OxyContin. The powerful drug has been blamed for dozens of overdose deaths in Kentucky.

        If he had known the officers were not in pain, Dr. Sawaf said, he “absolutely and categorically” wouldn't have prescribed the drugs. He said he had to make a judgment about whether the patients truly were suffering.

        “There's no litmus paper to tell you about pain,” he said.

        Dr. Sawaf, 60, has been on trial in U.S. District Court in Pikeville since Jan. 16. Besides prison time, he faces a $1 million fine if convicted on the federal charges.

        Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger West said in his opening statement that the physician was seeing up to 100 patients a day and that he did no physical exams and took no medical histories before writing prescriptions for OxyContin and other painkillers.

        OxyContin is intended for cancer patients and others suffering from chronic pain. Abusers crush the pills and inhale or inject the powder to get the same kind of euphoric high that heroin brings.

        Dr. Sawaf's defense attorney, Russell Alred of Harlan, said in his opening statement that police officers “really pulled the wool over this man's eyes.”


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