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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, July 24, 2018

San Leandro Physician’s Assistant Convicted Of Distributing Controlled Substances Without A Legitimate Medical Purpose

OAKLAND – David Lague, a physician’s assistant who formerly practiced in San Leandro, was convicted of thirty-nine counts of distributing oxycodone, oxymorphone, methadone, amphetamines, clonazepam, fentanyl, hydromorphone, morphine, hydrocodone, alprazolam, and carisoprodol outside the course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose by a federal jury today, announced United States Attorney Alex Tse, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Chris Nielson, and Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Special Agent in Charge Steven J. Ryan, San Francisco Regional Office.

The jury found that Lague, 61, of San Mateo, had prescribed oxycodone pills on two occasions to a patient who had informed Lague that he intended to sell the pills to make a profit.  In addition, the jury concluded that Lague had prescribed potent and highly addictive controlled substances to four other patients in a manner that he knew was not medically legitimate.  The jury acquitted Lague of health care fraud charges in connection with his fentanyl prescriptions to one of the four patients.

Evidence at trial showed that Lague was the number one prescriber of opioids in the state of California in 2015 and 2016, according to Medicare’s records.  Lague prescribed over 1.6 million controlled substance pills, of which over 1.4 million were in the most dangerous and abused category (designated by the DEA as Schedule II), in 2016.  

Undercover videotapes showed Lague prescribing pills to an informant without asking any questions about the patient’s health or performing any physical examinations.  Further recordings showed that, on October 13, 2016, when the informant asked Lague to double his oxycodone prescription to allow him to sell the extra pills for $6,000, Lague proceeded to provide the prescription, along with suggestions on how to avoid detection by the pharmacy or insurance provider.  On December 12, 2016, Lague again doubled the informant’s prescriptions to allow the informant to sell the oxycodone pills.

In addition, evidence from medical records showed that Lague was prescribing controlled substances to other patients despite clear signs of addiction.  Studies compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the combination of opioids and benzodiazepines (such as Xanax or Klonopin) quadruples the risk of overdose.  Medical records showed that Lague prescribed opioids and benzodiazepines to a patient who had twice tested positive for cocaine and whose father and former orthopedist had both warned Lague of red flags regarding the patient’s addiction.  Records further showed that Lague prescribed opioids and benzodiazepines to a patient who tested positive three times for cocaine and that Lague even wrote her an excuse note for her Narcotics Anonymous class before issuing her more prescriptions.  Medical records from a third patient showed that Lague prescribed a highly potent formulation of fentanyl that was intended for use only to treat cancer pain to a patient who did not have cancer and twice tested positive for heroin.  Records further showed that Lague had prescribed extraordinarily high amounts of oxycodone, as many as 90 oxycodone pills per day, to a fourth patient who had disclosed a prior oxycodone addiction and described consuming 25 pills at once on one occasion.  

The guilty verdict followed an eleven-day jury trial before the Honorable Haywood S. Gilliam, U.S. District Court Judge. 

Lague was indicted by a federal grand jury on December 5, 2017.  He was charged with thirty-six counts of distributing Schedule II controlled substances outside the usual course of professional practice without a legitimate medical purpose, three counts of distributing Schedule IV controlled substances outside the usual course of professional practice without a legitimate medical purpose, one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, and six counts of health care fraud. 

Following his conviction, Lague was remanded to the custody of the United States Marshals Service.  Defendant’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 22, 2018, before Judge Gilliam in Oakland.  The maximum statutory penalty for each count of distributing a controlled Schedule II substance outside the usual course of professional practice without a legitimate medical purpose in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) is 20 years imprisonment and a fine of $1,000,000.  The maximum statutory penalty for each count of distributing a controlled Schedule IV substance outside the usual course of professional practice without a legitimate medical purpose in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) is 5 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.  However, any sentence will be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553. 

Rita Lin and Frank Riebli are the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Ana Guerra, Diana Wong, and Linda Love.  This case was investigated and prosecuted by member agencies of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a focused multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force investigating and prosecuting the most significant drug trafficking organizations throughout the United States by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
 

Updated July 25, 2018