By Amaris Castillo
In a first-of-its-kind case in Massachusetts, a retired Dracut doctor who allegedly illegally prescribed opioids that resulted in an at-risk patient's death was released on personal recognizance last week in Middlesex Superior Court.
Dr. Richard Miron, 76, pleaded not guilty at his brief arraignment Thursday, Dec. 20, before Assistant Clerk Magistrate Michelle Goldman. He remained somber-faced as each charge against him was read aloud.
The doctor was indicted earlier this month by a Middlesex County grand jury on 23 counts of illegal prescribing of controlled substances, 23 counts of filing false Medicaid claims, and one count of involuntary manslaughter. Miron had practiced internal medicine in Dracut until he entered into a voluntary agreement earlier this month not to practice with the Board of Registration in Medicine, according to a statement released Thursday by Attorney General Maura Healey's office.
This is the first time in the state that a doctor has been indicted on an involuntary-manslaughter charge for allegedly illegally prescribing opioids.
"We have proposed conditions (for) released on personal (recognizance) for your consideration," Assistant Attorney General Steven Hoffman, who spoke on behalf of the state, told Goldman during the arraignment. "Those are, number one: no overnight travel outside the commonwealth without permission of probation or the court and sign a waiver of rendition, and, two, not apply for a passport.
Miron, a Dracut resident, was represented by Jay Lee, a lawyer with the Lowell firm of Gallagher & Cavanaugh. Lee declined to comment on the case before the arraignment.
The AG's Office alleges that Miron was responsible for the death of his patient, Michelle Craib, 50, on March 17, 2016. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined that the woman's death was caused by acute intoxication from the combined effects of fentanyl, morphine, codeine and butalbital, all prescribed by Miron.
The AG's Office last week released Craib's identity in the statement of the case. According to the statement, Craib was found dead in her apartment in Lowell. First-responders found two fentanyl patches attached to her abdomen, and police found many prescription bottles at the scene, including morphine, oxycodone and Fioricet with codeine, all prescribed by Miron.
"The post-mortem toxicology is entirely consistent with the opioids prescribed by Dr. Miron," the statement of the case reads.
Miron was "shocked and deeply saddened" to learn of the charges brought against him, according to a statement released Thursday afternoon by the firm representing him. The statement read, in part: "Dr. Miron is a well-respected medical professional who, after training and serving five years in the U.S. Army, practiced Internal Medicine for nearly a half-century -- in Chelmsford, Lowell, and Dracut -- before retiring earlier this year. During those five decades, Dr. Miron worked very hard to provide exemplary care and treatment to hundreds of area residents, never once being the subject of a Complaint in front of the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Medicine or any other forum previous to this matter."
The firm emphasized that Miron "vehemently denies the allegations made against him."
The attorney general began investigating Miron in September 2017 after the matter was referred by MassHealth. Miron was the largest provider of high-dose, short-acting oxycodone prescriptions of all MassHealth care providers across the state from September 2015 to February 2016. MassHealth terminated the doctor from its program in September 2017.
In a phone interview last week, Healey told The Valley Dispatch that the opioid epidemic itself must be combated from different angles.
"It's a public-health crisis, and it remains a top priority of my office," Healey said of the opioid crisis. "With respect to prescribers, the vast majority of prescribers are good and trying to do the right thing. This is not about them. This is about rooting out the outliers who have been contributing to the crisis through illegal prescribing."
Miron is due again in court on Jan. 29 for a scheduling conference and appointment of counsel.
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.