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Doctor sentenced for writing 10,000 prescriptions for drug while getting kickbacks from manufacturer

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A Hudson, Ohio, doctor has been sentenced to more than two years in prison for issuing prescriptions for a drug while receiving kickbacks from the pharmaceutical company that manufacturers it, according to Yahoo News.

Dr. Deepak Raheja, 66, was sentenced 30 months in prison and ordered to help pay $2,163,995 and a $50,000 fine for prescribing the drug Nuedexta to patients who didn't need it.

The drug treats pseudobulbar affect, a resulting condition from brain or neurological injuries that causes sudden and frequent bouts of laughter or crying.

Raheja, who had his medical license revoked, issued 10,088 prescriptions of the drug in approximately five years, from October 2011 to April 2016. This amounts to approximately 180 prescriptions of Nuedexta issued per month by Raheja.

According to court records, Raheja gave 211 presentations promoting the drug, making $1,500 for each. The presentations took place in offices or high-end restaurants using slides prepared by the pharmaceutical company.

In exchange for writing prescriptions to those who did not need treatment, Raheja received monetary kickbacks and "other items of value," according to the Akron Beacon Journal.

The company in question is Avanir Pharmaceuticals, whose manager co-conspired to increase the number of prescriptions of Nuedexta in the region.

Frank Mazzucco, 44, was a regional business manager with Avanir, supervising sales representatives in the region of Raheja's practice.

Raheja received $331,550 from Avanir for his role in the scheme, which saw him become the number-one issuer of Nuedexta prescriptions in the United States.

A second doctor, Dr. Bhupinder Sawhny, has already been sentenced to serve three years of probation and was ordered to pay $40,126.22 in restitution.

Side effects of the drug officially include "diarrhea, dizziness, cough, vomiting, weakness, and swelling of feet and ankles."

The Nuedexta website also warns users that if they have "unexplained bleeding or bruising," the ingredient "Quinidine," which is included in the drug, "can cause a reduction in the number of platelets in your blood which can be severe and, if left untreated, can be fatal."

The prescriptions for the drug were often billed to Medicaid and Medicare.

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