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Amherst pain doctor faces federal charges

Eugene J. Gosy is one of the busiest pain-management doctors in the state.

Federal prosecutors say he’s also one of the greediest, and on Tuesday, they accused the Amherst neurologist of operating a criminal conspiracy that issued more than 300,000 illegal prescriptions in four years.

The allegations against Gosy and his College Parkway practice, one of the largest pain-treatment centers in New York, are part of a 114-count indictment alleging that he provided painkillers to patients without a proper medical reason.

The indictment is the latest in a series of criminal charges against local doctors, and comes amid a local opioid epidemic that has claimed hundreds of lives over the last several years.

“He was the No. 1 prescriber in New York,” said John P. Flickinger, resident agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration office in Buffalo. “Dr. Gosy wrote more prescriptions than one of the largest hospitals in New York City.”

And to hear investigators talk, many of those prescriptions were illegal and harmful.

At the heart of the indictment is the allegation that Gosy, 55, a Clarence resident and a native of Hungary, stressed profit over care, an allegation that prompted prosecutors to compare him to a street corner drug dealer.

“This case raises an important question – is it an even greater threat when someone violates his medical license and training?” said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr.

The indictment makes Gosy the sixth Western New York doctor to face prosecution over illegal prescriptions and puts one of the state’s most successful pain specialists in the spotlight created by the recent rash of opioid and heroin overdoses.

Gosy, who was the subject of a 2011 article in The Buffalo News, has long been associated with high prescription rates, and in 2009, issued more prescriptions for controlled substances than any other doctor in New York. Flickinger said that the same was true in 2012.

Defense attorney Joel L. Daniels did not dispute his client’s record of success and, in fact, noted that Gosy’s practice treats thousands of patients with disabling pain.

Daniels also said the government’s case against his client escalates technical issues regarding Gosy’s practice into criminal activity.

“Importantly, the evidence will clearly show that all scripts written for Dr. Gosy’s patients were for legitimate medical purposes,” Daniels said. “We’re confident that, after hearing all of the evidence, a jury will agree that Dr. Gosy did nothing wrong.”

The indictment alleges that the doctor set up a prescription-renewal process that resulted in 300 illegal renewals each day. Gosy is charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and the unlawful distribution of narcotics.

“What occurred is the batch-signing of prescriptions,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney George C. Burgasser. “They would just line these prescriptions up to be signed.”

The indictment also charges Gosy with illegally billing the state workers’ compensation system for patient visits at his office.

“We’re alleging he was out of the country” at the time, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth R. Moellering.

The billing investigation, led by the FBI’s Health Care Fraud Task Force and that state Office of Workers’ Compensation, Inspector General, already has led to a forfeiture action against Gosy and the seizure in September of two of his cars – a $126,000 Ferrari and a $103,000 Ford GT coupe.

Investigators allege that Gosy’s false claims total more than $241,000.

“Dr. Gosy let his patients down, he let his employees down, and he let the community down,” said Holly L. Hubert, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI office in Buffalo.

A former resident at the University at Buffalo and the then-Millard Fillmore Hospital at Gates Circle, Gosy opened his own practice in 1999. The practice expanded four years later when he opened Gosy & Associates Pain and Neurology Treatment Center on College Parkway, off Youngs Road. His medical staff includes two doctors and eight nurse practitioners.

“Dr. Gosy has devoted his life to helping those who suffer from disabling pain,” Daniels said Tuesday.

Gosy has said in the past that his center may be the largest in the state in terms of patients and should be viewed as a “model” for helping people with debilitating chronic pain.

In an op-ed article written for The News two years ago, he said it’s almost impossible to overstate the extent of the chronic pain problem in the United States.

“Critics forget about the individual tragedies behind each chronic pain case,” he wrote.

“Whether it’s a person agonizing from cancer, fibromyalgia, migraines or sports injuries, they need and deserve treatment to help eliminate or at least minimize their pain so they can function as close to normally as possible.”

The first hint of Gosy’s legal problems came last September, when the FBI and several other law enforcement agencies raided his Amherst office and left with several boxes of material.

A few months later, prosecutors filed a forfeiture complaint demanding Gosy’s two luxury cars and outlining their allegations against him.

Like Gosy, five other doctors have found themselves investigated and subsequently charged with illegally dispensing painkillers such as oxycodone.

One of the first, Dr. Pravin V. Mehta, now 77, of Getzville, took a plea deal in which he admitted doling out illegal pain medication at his Niagara Falls medical practice from late 2007 to early 2011.

Another doctor, Matthew A. Bennett, also admitted illegally handing out painkillers at his North Tonawanda practice. Bennett, 50, of Clarence, was sentenced to three years in prison.