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Doctor accused in overdose death pleads not guilty as new details emerge

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 12/21/2018 By Felice J. Freyer
a group of people in a room: Dr. Richard Miron (center left) in Middlesex Superior Court. © AMARIS CASTILLO/POOL PHOTO Dr. Richard Miron (center left) in Middlesex Superior Court.

Dr. Richard Miron, the Dracut physician accused of involuntary manslaughter for prescribing opioids to a woman who overdosed, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Middlesex Superior Court Thursday, as new details in the case came to light.

Miron, 76, was released on his own recognizance with a court date set for Jan. 29. His case marks the first time a Massachusetts doctor has been charged in the death of a 50-year-old patient who overdosed on prescribed opioids.

Two weeks ago, a grand jury indicted Miron on dozens of charges related to improper prescribing for 12 patients, including holding him responsible for the death of Michelle Craib on March 17, 2016.

Craib, identified for the first time in court documents filed Thursday, was found dead in her Lowell apartment with two fentanyl patches attached to her abdomen. Police also found “many prescription bottles at the scene, including morphine, oxycodone, and Fioricet with codeine, all prescribed by Dr. Miron,” according to a “statement of the case” filed by Attorney General Maura Healey. (Fioricet is the brand name for a combination medication used to treat headaches.)

Miron knew that on Feb. 2, 2016, Craib had survived an overdose of drugs he had prescribed, but he continued to prescribe large doses of opioids on that day and other days up to March 9, the attorney general alleges.

“A well-qualified medical expert has concluded that any reasonable physician knowing what Dr. Miron knew should have realized that continued prescribing of opioids posed a risk of grave danger to his patient, and that the opioid prescribing by Dr. Miron on and after February 2, 2016 resulted in the death of Michelle Craib,” the attorney general’s court statement said.

Miron’s lawyer, Jay V. Lee of the Lowell law firm of Gallagher & Cavanaugh, said in a statement that Miron “was shocked and deeply saddened” by the charges against him and “vehemently denies” them. Lee’s statement asserted that in 50 years of practicing internal medicine in Chelmsford, Lowell, and Dracut, Miron had never been the subject of a complaint before the state Board of Registration in Medicine, the state body that licenses and disciplines physicians.

“During those five decades, Dr. Miron worked very hard to provide exemplary care and treatment to hundreds of area residents,” the statement said. “It is very unfortunate that after a long and notable career, Dr. Miron must now prepare a defense to criminal allegations that are simply without the requisite factual basis, but he will do so.”

A few days before the indictment, Miron entered into a voluntary agreement with the medical board not to practice medicine. The agreement specifies that Miron does not admit to any wrongdoing.

The indictments, handed up Dec. 6 by a Middlesex County Grand Jury, allege that Miron prescribed oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl, methadone, and hydromorphone — all opioids — to 12 patients from December 2012 to September 2017. These prescriptions “were not for a legitimate medical purpose’’ and many of the patients had evidence of substance use disorders, including overdoses that Miron knew about, according to the attorney general.

“Dr. Miron continue to prescribe opioids for months and sometimes years without taking any measures to ensure that the patients were using, rather than diverting, the medications,” the attorney general’s statement asserted.

The prescriptions caused pharmacies to unwittingly falsely bill MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, for $21,129 in claims.

In addition to the one count of involuntary manslaughter in Craib’s death, Miron faces 23 counts of illegal prescribing of controlled substances and 23 counts of filing false claims for Medicaid reimbursement.

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