It has now been a common belief that opioid addiction begins at the doctor’s office. It’s hard to dispute that assertion now as New Jersey physician Morris "Moishe" Starkman has been guilty of said act.

The former Bordentown, NJ doctor prescribed over 1.4 million opioid painkillers within a 36-month period, according to the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office. The reports also indicate that at least one of Starkman’s patients suffered a fatal overdose. He faces eight counts of distributing controlled substances, four counts of health care fraud and two counts of insurance fraud, and can very well be brought before a grand jury when all is said and done.

The Rubber-Stamp and the Cover-Up

Opioid painkillers like these are linked to thousands of overdose deaths in the US
Opioid painkillers like these are linked to thousands of overdose deaths in the US AFP / Eric BARADAT

Prosecutors allege that Starkman performed “cursory examinations” on patients and failed to document treatment plans for pain management or provide "legitimate" medical reasons for the millions of opioid prescriptions he wrote through his Bordentown practice. They claim he wrote the prescriptions to keep his practice afloat.

According to court documents, one patient named in the case received over 17,000 doses of opioids from Starkman during the three-year period. “He was one of the top prescribers in New Jersey,” said Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina. “The number of opioids he prescribed for the three-year period reviewed during the investigation was enough to provide in excess of three doses to every man, woman and child residing in Burlington County." Starkman submitted approximately $50,000 worth of false insurance claims to cover his tracks.

Part of A Larger Problem

Starkman is Just one example of a glaring problem of physician culpability in the opioid epidemic. In 2017, over 47,600 Americans died of opioid overdose, many of whom started taking painkillers prescribed by a doctor. Opioid prescribing rates are higher in the United States compared to other countries. However, recent crackdowns in physician accountability have cut the number of new prescriptions being written by about half. Many people who get hooked on painkillers very often end up transitioning to the cheaper by equally effective heroin.