Pubdate: Wed, 25 May 2005
Source: Fort Pierce Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2005 The E.W. Scripps Co.
Author: Derek Simmonsen, staff writer
Bookmark: (Chronic Pain)
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


FORT PIERCE -- Prosecutors rested their case against a Port St. Lucie
physician Tuesday with testimony from pharmacists concerned about
large quantities of high-dose painkiller prescriptions coming from her

Four area pharmacists said red flags were raised about prescriptions
from Dr. Asuncion Luyao's office, and they called her often to make
sure she hadn't made mistakes. Luyao, 63, faces charges of
racketeering, manslaughter and trafficking in oxycodone, and is
accused of contributing to the deaths of six patients.

John Manochio, a former pharmacist with Jackson Drugs in Fort Pierce,
said many Luyao patients looked younger than the typical pain patient
and didn't appear to be in much pain.

"They were larger quantities than a normal person would use," he said
of the prescriptions. "Our concern was the patient was taking too many

It wasn't unusual for patients to come in days early for prescriptions
or go to the pharmacists with stories about lost or stolen pills, they
said. After a call to Luyao's office, the doctor would always tell the
pharmacists to fill the order.

Mary Johnson, a Vero Beach pharmacist, told jurors a man once came in
a week after getting an OxyContin prescription claiming he lost all
the pills while cleaning Luyao's pool. Though the story seemed
suspicious to Johnson, Luyao confirmed it and ordered more medication.

"After a while it just got to be so bad that we tried not to fill her
prescriptions," Johnson said.

An investigator with the state Medicaid fraud office testified there
were Medicaid patients coming from as far away as the Panhandle and
Miami-Dade County to see Luyao for prescriptions -- one of several
things that concerned his office.

OxyContin prescriptions filled by Luyao's Medicaid patients rose
steadily from 17 prescriptions in 1997 to 844 in 2001. While the
office billed about $3,000 in medical care to Medicaid in a five-year
span, the program was billed $1.6 million in prescriptions, with about
$1 million made up of OxyContin pills.

Luyao was one of the top 10 OxyContin prescribers in the state for
several years, according to Lt. David Brockmeier, with the Medicaid
fraud office.

After the prosecution rested around 4 p.m., defense attorney Joel
Hirschhorn asked Senior Judge C. P. Trowbridge to acquit Luyao on all
charges, claiming there was not enough evidence to support them.
Trowbridge denied the routine motion, but said some of the counts
against her did appear weak.

The defense, which will begin presenting its case today, has argued
many of Luyao's patients lied to her in order to get prescriptions,
and that she broke no laws in treating them. Other factors, and not
Luyao's care, led to the patient deaths.

The trial began May 9; about 50 witnesses have testified for the
prosecution over nine days. Trowbridge told jurors he expects they
will be able to begin deliberations by the end of the week.
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MAP posted-by: Derek