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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                          Sept. 18, 2012                   

FORMER MINGO COUNTY DOCTOR SENTENCED TO FEDERAL PRISON FOR PAINKILLER PRESCRIPTION CONSPIRACY

Defendant out-prescribed several W.Va. hospitals from 2003 through 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. –U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced today that a former Mingo County doctor was sentenced to six months in federal prison for conspiracy to misuse a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration number. Dr. Diane E. Shafer, 60, previously pleaded guilty in May.  Shafer admitted that she was responsible for providing painkiller prescriptions to patients she did not examine, but who came to her Williamson, W.Va. office and paid a cash fee. Shafer further admitted that she left signed, undated prescriptions for controlled substances at her office so members of her staff could distribute them in exchange for cash when the defendant was away. The prescriptions, which included the painkiller hydrocodone and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax, were provided without Shafer’s seeing the patients or determining they had any medical need for the drugs prescribed. 

Records indicate between 2003 and early 2010, Shafer wrote over 118,000 prescriptions for controlled substances. Though she was a solo practitioner, Shafer, by herself, wrote more prescriptions for controlled substances than several West Virginia hospitals did during that period. 

"When a doctor or pharmacist abuses his or her prescription power, it fuels our state's worst crime problem," said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. "The vast majority of physicians prescribe responsibly, but even a handful of bad actors can flood our communities with illegal pills. I hope this conviction sends a clear message: There are consequences if you prescribe drugs illegally."

"Next week marks the launch of the national Medicine Abuse Project," said Goodwin, "and Saturday, September 29 is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Today's sentencing is a reminder that prescription drug abuse remains a terribly serious problem in West Virginia and around the country. I urge everyone to clean out their medicine cabinets and drop off unneeded medications at a take-back site on Saturday the 29th.”

Drop-off locations for National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day are available at www.dea.gov.  

This case is being prosecuted as part of an ongoing effort led by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia to combat the illicit sale and misuse of prescription drugs.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office, joined by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, is committed to aggressively pursuing and shutting down illegal pill trafficking, eliminating open air drug markets, and curtailing the spread of opiate painkillers in communities across the Southern District. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the DEA, and the West Virginia State Police conducted the investigation.  Assistant United States Attorney John Frail handled the prosecution.  The sentence was imposed by United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr.

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