Merrick doctor pleads not guilty in overdoses of 2 patients

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A Merrick doctor pleaded not guilty today to charges that he illegally prescribed painkillers that led to the overdose deaths of two patients.

Dr. Michael Belfiore is accused of illegally prescribing oxycodone back in 2013. He calls the charges a witch hunt.

“It makes no sense to me, this is a nightmare,” he says. “I didn't cause the death of anybody. An overdose - if they would have followed the medication as directed - they would still be here today. Overdoses are a direct violation of what is written on the prescription.”

Belfiore was originally charged with illegally distributing prescriptions for painkillers. Prosecutors say he sold prescriptions for profit and wrote out thousands of them. A judge dismissed the initial indictment a few weeks ago on a technicality, saying court documents failed to say there was no reason for Belfiore to prescribe the drug. Prosecutors refiled the case, saying Belfiore wrote prescriptions to patients who didn't need them.

Prosecutors also added the charges of causing the overdose deaths of two patients. Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, who has been on the front lines battling opioid addiction, says that charge may be hard to prove.

“Ultimately someone would look at this and say ‘but the patient is the one who makes the ultimate decision to put that drug into their body,’ so I think connecting the dots is never an easy thing in these kind of cases,” says Reynolds.

Belfiore didn’t hold back when he spoke outside court.

“This is the part where I really get inflamed,” he said. “And I really get angry because how are we supposed to practice? We can’t trust our patients anymore, we can’t trust our pharmacist. We can’t trust the drug reps and, most of all, I can’t trust the government.”

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