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Press Release

Tompkins County Medical Practice Pays $70,377 to Resolve False Claims Act and Controlled Substance Act Allegations Relating to Opioid and Benzodiazepine Prescriptions

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of New York
Physician Prescribed 35 Morphine Pills per Day, Plus Valium, While Patient was Using Cocaine

SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – Dr. Howard Silcoff, and his medical practice, Dryden Family Medical Practice, PLLC agreed to pay $70,377 to resolve the United States’ allegations that they prescribed controlled substances for non-legitimate medical purposes, outside the usual course of a professional practice, thereby causing false claims to be submitted to the Medicare program.  

The announcement was made by United States Attorney Carla B. Freedman, Naomi Gruchacz, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General’s New York Region (HHS-OIG), and Special Agent in Charge Frank A. Tarentino III, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), New York Division.

Under the Controlled Substances Act and analogous New York State law, controlled substances may only be issued for a legitimate medical purpose by an individual practitioner acting in the usual course of a professional practice.  Prescribers must regulate the dosage to that which is ordinarily recognized by the medical profession as sufficient for treatment.  For the cost of a prescription to be reimbursable by Medicare, the prescription must be medically necessary, and comply with federal and state law. Dr. Silcoff admitted that for more than a decade, he prescribed an average of 35 morphine pills per day to a single patient. He also simultaneously prescribed to the same patient diazepam, also known as valium, which belongs to class of drugs known as benzodiazepines.  Dr. Silcoff had been advised by the patient’s Medicare prescription drug carrier, that these medications were potentially contraindicated and that physicians should use caution when concurrently prescribing opioids, such as morphine, with benzodiazepines.  Beginning in October 2017, Dr. Silcoff ordered drug urinalysis screens for this patient, which revealed that the patient was using cocaine and unprescribed oxycodone and was inconsistently taking the diazepam.  Dr. Silcoff made no changes to the prescription regimen for 17 months, before ultimately initiating the patient on buprenorphine for opioid dependence, pain, and withdrawal symptoms

This settlement resolves the United States’ allegations that the morphine prescriptions were excessive and dangerous to both the patient and the general public, especially in light of concurrent use of diazepam, un-prescribed oxycodone, and cocaine. Because multiple drug screens were negative for benzodiazepines, the United States further contends that a portion of the diazepam prescriptions had no legitimate medical purpose.

The $70,377 payment constitutes damages sustained by Medicare when it reimbursed for the prescriptions, and civil penalties under the Controlled Substances Act. 

This case was investigated by HHS-OIG and DEA Syracuse District Office’s Diversion Group. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Moran represented the United States in this matter. 

Updated March 3, 2023

Prescription Drugs
False Claims Act