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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

DEA Administrator Karen Tandy's Remarks on Hurwitz Sentencing

Note: Administrator Tandy sometimes deviates from her prepared remarks, which are below.

Karen P. Tandy
Administrator
Drug Enforcement Administration
Dr. Hurwitz Sentencing Press Conference
Alexandria, Virginia
April 14, 2005 at 1:00

photo of Administrator Tandy
DEA Administrator Karen Tandy shows the 1,600 pills convicted physician William Hurwitz prescribed to one patient in one day.

Justice was served today. A criminal drug dealer who violated the public trust and his Hippocratic oath 'to do no harm' will no longer be in a position to place our citizens in harm's way.

Abuse of prescription drugs now rivals all other drug abuse except marijuana-almost one out of every ten high school seniors has abused prescription drugs.

Prescription drug abuse can have lethal consequences, as today's case demonstrates. DEA's job is to end that abuse by targeting the diversion of legal drugs into the illegal market. Drugs are diverted a number of ways-through pharmacy robberies, prescription forgeries, and fraudulent Internet sales. Doctors are an extremely small part of the problem. Last year, cases in which DEA was involved resulted in the arrest of 42 doctors out of a total of almost one million registered physicians in the United States. This equates to the arrest of one physician out of every 23,000.

DEA's enforcement strategy against doctors like Hurwitz hasn't changed. We employ a balanced approach that recognizes both the unquestioned need for responsible pain medication, and the possibility, which today's case graphically illustrates, of criminal drug trafficking.

Dr. Hurwitz prescribed 1,600 pills to one person to take in a single day. This is what 1,600 pills looks like.

Dr. Hurwitz was no different from a cocaine or heroin dealer peddling poison on the street corner. Indeed he was worse, because unlike the street dealer, he had and abused the trust and authority to treat people in pain. He hid behind his white lab coat and Stanford medical degree to try to conceal the fact that he had become a common drug trafficker.

Four months ago, the citizens of Virginia saw Dr. Hurwitz for what he was and convicted him on 50 counts of drug trafficking, finding him responsible for Linda Lalmond's (lull-mond ) tragic overdose death and the serious injuries of two other patients. Today, with his sentence to 25 years in federal prison, the citizens of Virginia -- and the United States -- are safer.

To the million doctors who legitimately prescribe narcotics to relieve patients' pain and suffering, you have nothing to fear from Dr. Hurwitz's prosecution and no reason to refrain from providing your patients with pain medications when you deem it medically necessary. When you examine the facts of this case, it will be immediately apparent that nothing you do in your practice even faintly resembles what Dr. Hurwitz did.

The case against Dr. Hurwitz was a key part of an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation that resulted in more than 50 convictions, pleas, or commitment to guilty pleas for drug trafficking. Many of those involved received drugs from Dr. Hurwitz.

Ridding the medical profession of criminal drug dealers like Hurwitz ensures that the medical community will continue to enjoy the public confidence that the overwhelming majority of its practitioners have earned.

This OCDETF case was made possible only through the combined efforts of the U.S. Attorney's Office, DEA, FBI, ATF, IRS, and police from Fairfax, Fauquier, and Prince William Counties. I thank U.S. Attorney McNulty and his staff for their successful prosecution.

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