Albany doctor arrested in prescription investigation - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany doctor arrested in prescription investigation

July 6, 2006

Albany -- An Albany doctor is accused of over prescribing powerful pain medication, and he could be implicated in the deaths of several patients.  

 Local, state, and federal law enforcers raided Dr. George Lawrence's home and office Thursday after a 6-month investigation.   Right now he faces only one drug charge. But prosecutors are trying to determine if he's linked to the deaths of five patients.

At 9:00 Thursday morning law enforcement with a search warrant raided Dr. George Lawrence's office in the 300 block of West Residence. District Attorney Ken Hodges said "There was a suspicion the Doctor was over prescribing medication, specifically dilaudid and oxycontin, which are pain medications."

Preparing for the raid, Drug Agents started surveillance of the Doctor's office at 7:30 AM, and reported there was a line of patients at the back door. Hodges said "Observed a number of people coming in and getting the illegal narcotics that are being dispensed."

 Investigators from the state's Office of Medical Examiners started looking into Dr. Lawrence's practice in January. The Dougherty D.A.'s office and Albany Dougherty Drug Unit were brought in March. Hodges said they are looking into at least five deaths of Dr. Lawrence's patients. Hodges said "In at least, approximately 100 cases or more he was over prescribing these narcotics, which can be deadly. In fact, there have been some deaths."

 Hodges said Dr. Lawrence was cooperative, as Investigators and agents seized his records and computers, saying there were more records than they anticipated. Hodges said "Currently We are going to go through all the records, and build the criminal case from this point."

 Hours later Investigators searched Dr. Lawrence's home on Dunaway Drive, and decided to criminally charge him. Hodges said "It's our intention to take out arrest warrant for one count of possession of a controlled substance this afternoon. We are going to allow the Doctor to post bond, and not actually go to jail."

Dr. Lawrence will be allowed to continue to treat his patients, but will not be allowed to write any more prescriptions.

WALB News Ten talked with downtown pharmacies, and several said they had stopped filling Dr. Lawrence's prescriptions.

One pharmacy said they had reported him to authorities several times for writing hundreds of prescriptions they termed suspicious.

The pain medications involved in this case can be highly addictive.  Prosecutors suspect Dr. Lawrence of overprescribing Oxycontin, dilaudid, and hydrocodone.  They're listed as opiate analgesic pain medicines.  

Oxycontin, nicknamed "hillbilly heroine," is used normally prescribed for terminal cancer patients or chronic pain sufferers.  Dilaudid is eight times more potent than morphine.    Hydrocodone is also called a "white collar heroin" on the streets.  It's an anti-cough agent also used for mild to moderate pain control.  

Prolonged use of all three can be fatal.

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