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Cheektowaga surgeon admits illegal use of painkillers

A Cheektowaga doctor accused of illegally prescribing himself painkillers pleaded guilty Wednesday.

Dr. Anthony Leone, 55, a spine and general orthopedic surgeon with a practice on Cleveland Drive, attributed his drug use to a series of back surgeries that left him "overwhelmed with pain."

"I take responsibility, as I did in court today, for writing my own prescriptions for addictive painkillers." he said in a statement. "That was wrong and I apologize."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura A. Higgins said Leone lied about his use of painkillers on a form used by a commercial distributor of controlled substances.

Higgins said the form allowed the defendant to order and receive bulk quantities of Adderall XR, hydrocodone, clonazepam, tramadol and zolpidem, all controlled substances.

“As with many of those whose judgment is impaired as a result of their need to feed their addiction, the defendant lied to get what he wanted,” U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. said in a statement. “Sadly, this case serves as another example of the debilitating and destructive power of addiction, whether it's prescription pills or other dangerous, illegal opiates."

In April of last year, Drug Enforcement Administration agents conducted a search of Leone’s offices during which the doctor told them he dispensed the hydrocodone to patients.

In truth, investigators claim, Leone was taking the hydrocodone home to his residence on Cobblestone Drive in Clarence and using it himself.

In  his statement Wednesday, Leone said he underwent six weeks of drug treatment and is taking part in random drug testing as part of a contractual agreement with the Committee for Physicians Health that will allow him to continue his medical practice.

Leone pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a controlled substance and making material false statements during an appearance before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford.

In an October 2017 story in The Buffalo News, Leone talked about his own history of back pain and his decision, as a doctor, to convert to a new form of minimally invasive spine surgery when treating others.

"I had back pain, leg pain and surgery," he said at the time. "I’ve had the whole gamut of what my patients go through and I can understand and empathize and sympathize with them 100 percent. It’s very unpleasant and can literally incapacitate you."

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