Published: Sat, June 09, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Did a NYC doctor cause patient deaths with 'Holy Trinity' of pills?

Did a NYC doctor cause patient deaths with 'Holy Trinity' of pills?

But a criminal investigation did not begin, authorities said, until the Pennsylvania attorney general's office became suspicious of prescriptions being filled at pharmacies in that state issued in Dr. Choy's name.

He was extradited to NY from Wisconsin by Drug Enforcement Agency officers last week.

The two manslaughter charges against Choy involved Michael Ries, 30, of Hauppauge, who died March 23, 2014, and Eliot Castillo, 35, of Jamaica, Queens, who died February 23, 2013.

"After 30-plus years in law enforcement I never thought I'd see the day where doctors and drug dealers were interchangeable", James Hunt, the special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in NY, said in announcing the charges. A third overdose death, that of Suffolk County chef Dan Barry, who died January 15, 2016, is being charged as an act of reckless endangerment, officials said.

Aware he was under investigation, Choy left his practice suddenly in June 2017, going to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, according to Hunt.

Two of the deaths - Eliot Castillo, 35 and Michael Ries, 30 - suffered fatal overdoses within three days of receiving their prescriptions from Choy, the government alleges.

However, other patients - including the three who died - had legitimate pain management issues and apparently became addicted to their medications, Brennan said.

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Dr. Choy had been a licensed physician since 1981. Beginning in 2012, authorities say his prescribing practices changed dramatically, and he began issuing a high number of prescriptions for oxycodone and multiple prescriptions for controlled substances simultaneously to individual patients. They say this shift coincided with the filing of tax warrants against Choy for more than $1 million in taxes owed.

Judge Neil Ross ordered Choy held without bail but indicated he could be released later on Thursday if a bail package was arranged, officials said.

Choy is also alleged to have prescribed Castillo Percocet in addition to his other regimen.

Carisoprodol is a muscle relaxant which is also known as Soma. Medical literature explains that this combination, dubbed "the holy trinity", is known to be favored by individuals suffering from substance abuse and by those seeking to resell pills on the black market.

When these drugs are taken together, they are believed to increase the risk of overdose.

The investigation showed that Choy, "personally observed the patients' physical and mental states deteriorate, while disregarding reports about patients' involvement in accidents, including motor vehicle accidents", the DEA said.

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