Pennsylvania physician charged in 2 fatal opioid overdoses

By: MARK SCOLFORO, Associated Press

Updated:

A Pittsburgh area doctor was charged Friday with causing the deaths of two patients by overprescribing opioids, state prosecutors announced.

The attorney general's office charged Dr. Michel Toret with drug delivery resulting in death for the overdoses of Heather Dervin and Glenn Morgan last year.

His defense lawyer said Toret, 71, of Jeannette, did not violate standards of care.

"Certain facts have come to light that may have put Dr. Toret's medical care in question, however, we intend on defending against the charges," said his attorney, Michael DiRiso.

Prosecutors said an investigation was launched in late 2016 after one of the doctor's employees reported that he was prescribing large amounts of opioids.

Dervin, 26, overdosed on Sept. 10, 2016, about a week after getting methadone from Toret.

The police affidavit used to charge Toret said he continued to prescribe her a variety of drugs even after she reported needing replacements because the drugs had been stolen, a caller told the doctor Dervin was doctor-shopping and a drug screen showed she was using illegal drugs.

A physician hired by prosecutors to review patient files described Dervin as "a young woman with pain complaints, mental disorder and little to justify the high-dose opioid prescribing she was receiving."

The consultant, Dr. Stephen Thomas, alleged that Toret had "actively ignored" an underlying addiction and engaged in "haphazard prescribing that was the proximate mechanism of her death."

Morgan's October 2016 death in a Kansas hotel room occurred days after Toret prescribed him oxymorphone.

Police in Emporia, Kansas, said the 30-year-old Morgan's cellphone contained a text to Toret's wife that sought scripts for "high strength doses of opioid analgesics" eight days before he died.

Thomas, the prosecutors' pain management consultant, said Morgan's chief complaint when he first met with Toret in June 2015 was lower back pain from a vehicle accident.

"From the outset, the treatment was prescription opioids in the absence of a clear structural diagnosis," Thomas told police.

"If not but for Dr. Toret's prescribing of opioid analgesics and high-dose benzodiazepine sedatives to Mr. Morgan, he would not have died," Thomas concluded.

Toret relinquished his federal right to prescribe drugs after his office in North Huntington was searched last year.

Next Up: