As a Midwest City osteopathic doctor faces trial in the overdose deaths of five patients, two Sayre doctors have been indicted on drug charges in a separate case related the overdose deaths of five other patients.
On Wednesday, Oklahoma County District Court Special Judge Mark McCormick found sufficient evidence during a preliminary hearing to order Regan Ganoung Nichols, 58, to stand trial on five counts of second degree murder.
In that case, Nichols, a former osteopathic physician, is accused of prescribing patients highly-addictive pills without legitimate medical need and with "disregard for human life." Investigators say that between 2010 and 2013, five of Nichols's patients died of drug overdose after she prescribed hundreds of pills to each from the "holy trinity" of drug abuse.
The "holy trinity" is a term used to refer to a combination of three types of drugs which are often abused together: opioid, benzodiazepine, and carisoprodol.
Opioids are painkillers which include hydrocodone (Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab, Norco), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet), morphine, codeine, fentanyl, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), and oxymorphone.
Benzodiazepines are used to treat seizures and anxiety and include alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and triazolam (Halcion).
Carisoprodol is a muscle relaxer typically used to treat muscle injuries such as strains and sprains. Brand names include Rela and Soma.
Each of these three drugs can cause respiratory depression, and combining these drugs with each other or with alcohol can have deadly results.
Nichols was banned from prescribing drugs in 2015 after an investigation into the overdose deaths of her patients in the preceding years. An agent with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control wrote in an affidavit, "Nichols prescribed extremely large quantities of controlled substances in suspect combinations, including the most abused and sought after prescription drugs on the street, to numerous patients with very little medical examination."
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter called the quantity of drugs Nichols prescribed "horrifyingly excessive," and said the doctor's "blatant disregard for the lives of her patients is unconscionable."
Nichols faces up to 10 years in prison for each count of second degree murder.
Meanwhile, two Sayre doctors have been indicted by a federal grand jury following the overdose deaths of five patients. Melvin Lee Robison, 63, and Moheb Hallaba, 89, are each charged with
charged with drug conspiracy, five counts of distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death, and dozens of counts of illegal distribution of a controlled substance.
According to the grand jury allegations, Robison, and osteopath, and Hallaba, a medical doctor, signed hundreds of prescriptions every week without reviewing patient files, seeing patients, or regarding urinalysis results that indicated drug abuse. Grand jurors allege that Robison's and Hallaba's prescribing habits were "outside the usual course of professional medical practice and without legitimate medical purpose." The two doctors are accused of prescribing opioid painkillers and benzodiazepines together in large quantities. The two drugs are known to cause deadly interactions when taken together.
The five deaths mentioned in the indictment occurred among patients of the Robison Clinic in Sayre between September 2015 and April 2017.