News and Press Releases

Las Vegas Doctor Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Unlawfully Prescribing the Painkiller Oxycodone

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 7, 2012

Las Vegas, Nev. – James E. Tinnell, M.D., 74, a Las Vegas doctor who pleaded guilty in October to unlawfully selling prescriptions for powerful and highly addictive painkillers, was sentenced today by Senior U.S. District Judge Roger L. Hunt, to two years in prison and two years of supervised release, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.

"Dr. Tinnell is one of 70 persons, including four doctors, charged federally in Nevada over the last two years with unlawfully distributing prescription painkillers," said U.S. Attorney Bogden. "The abuse of prescription drugs in Las Vegas is a serious problem. My office has, and will continue to devote substantial resources towards protecting the community from the harms that result when corrupt physicians breach their duty to prescribe dangerous drugs responsibly."

Dr. Tinnell has been practicing medicine in Nevada for almost 30 years, and maintained a medical practice at 2900 E. Desert Inn Road. Tinnell represented himself to be a specialist in pain management and an advocate of medical marijuana therapy. Dr. Tinnell admitted in his plea agreement, that on four occasions between July 2010 and April 2011, he unlawfully wrote prescriptions for painkillers to two patients who did not have the medical necessity for them. The patients were actually undercover law enforcement officers posing as patients. Before prescribing the pills, Dr.Tinnell performed no or a minimal physical examination, and failed to refer the patients to a specialist, physical therapy, or for diagnostic testing. Tinnell prescribed a total of 470 pills of oxycodone, aka "Percocet" to the two patients. Percocet is a brand name for a drug containing oxycodone, a narcotic analgesic, and acetaminophen. Percocet typically is used for the relief of moderate to severe short-term pain and can be extremely habit forming.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, overdose deaths from prescription painkillers - a class of drugs that includes hydrocodone and oxycodone, at issue in this case - have skyrocketed in the past decade. Every year, nearly 15,000 people die from overdoses involving these drugs - more than those who die from heroin and cocaine combined. Five percent of all individuals age twelve and older in the United States used prescription painkillers non-medically (without a valid prescription) in 2010.

The case was investigated by the Nevada High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (Nevada HIDTA) Pharm-Net Task Force, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Crane M. Pomerantz.

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