Judges must be tough on doctors who push pills

A special kind of drug pushers are responsible for much of the misery inflicted upon many addicts in West Virginia. They are health care providers — doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others — who have special access to opioid painkillers and a screen of legitimacy behind which to hide while they profit from their deadly wares.

The fact that nearly all health care professionals are conscientious, law-abiding men and women helps the tiny group of rogues hide in plain sight.

Little by little, they are being discovered.

This week, one of the most notorious of them got at least some of his just desserts. Dr. Michael Kostenko, who had operated the Coal Country Clinic in Raleigh County, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison after admitting to one count of distributing oxycodone without a legitimate medical purpose.

Kostenko ran an operation that gained national notoriety. In pleading guilty, he admitted that on Dec. 9, 2013, he wrote prescriptions for 22,255 pain pills for 271 patients — without actually seeing any of them. His staff collected his preferred form of payment, more than $20,000 in cash.

That was on just one count Kostenko had faced. He had been charged with 21 others.

Good for the judge who sentenced Kostenko to a lengthy prison term. Let us hope other judges, both in state and federal courts, use that as a model when health care providers turned pusher stand before them.

These are the people we have a right to believe will take care of us — not set us up for death by overdose.


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