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Las Vegas doctor charged with unlawful distribution of fentanyl

Doctor had testified in War Machine trial
Posted at 7:24 PM, Feb 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-14 17:02:36-05

A pain management doctor practicing in Las Vegas was arrested Tuesday and charged with 29-counts of unlawful distribution of fentanyl and for committing health care fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.  

Dr. Steven A. Holper, 66, is charged in an indictment with seven counts of distribution of fentanyl, a controlled substance, and 22-counts of providing a false statement relating to a health benefit program. Holper testified for the defense in the War Machine trial last year. 

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid painkiller that is 100 times more potent than morphine and 40 to 60 times more potent than 100 percent pure heroin. Fentanyl is available in various forms, including Subsys. Subsys is only available through the Transmucosal Immediate-Release Fentanyl Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy Access program. The only FDA-approved indication for TIRF medicines are for use to manage breakthrough pain in adults with cancer. Dr. Holper routinely prescribed Subsys for his patients without cancer.

According to allegations contained in the indictment, which was unsealed today, from about July 19, 2015 through March 12, 2016, Holper allegedly prescribed Subsys to a patient without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice. The indictment further alleges that, from about November 21, 2013 through March 24, 2017, Holper knowingly made false statements to Medicare and private health insurance companies. Dr. Holper prescribed Subsys for patients without cancer and falsely represented 22 patients were cancer patients with breakthrough cancer pain, who were opioid tolerant and eligible for Subsys.

The statutory maximum penalty for distribution of a controlled substance is 20 years in prison and the maximum penalty for health care fraud is 10 years in prison.

The case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Henderson Police Department.