Doc from Chicago convicted of running giant 'pill mill'

May 10, 2011 (CHICAGO)

In this Intelligence Report: How Dr. Paul Volkman is suspected of causing almost 20 overdose deaths.

In the early 1970's, Volkman had a promising future in medicine. With a degree from University of Chicago Medical School, and residency at Loyola, Volkman was on his way up.

Now an incredible violation of Hippocratic oath has Volkman headed to federal prison.

Paul Holland Volkman had an apartment on Lake Shore Drive, a devoted family and a prosperous medical practice. He received his medical degree from the prestigious University of Chicago Pritzker Medical School in 1974.

In 2003, a large medical malpractice settlement and court judgments forced Volkman to southern Ohio where he opened up pain clinics that also served northern Kentucky. When local pharmacies started reporting Volkman's patients had been prescribed large quantities of the painkiller OxyContin, known on the street as "hillbilly heroin," Volkman came to the attention of federal drug agents.

Federal investigators say that as many as 18 of Volkman's patients died within a few days of getting pain med prescriptions from the Chicago MD.

According to a federal indictment handed up in Ohio in 2007, the "pill mill killer" wrote countless prescriptions for excessive dosages even though he knew customers abused the medications. His clinics hired armed guards to control the crowds, and Volkman used guns, baseball bats and other weapons in the clinics to "help maintain order."

Customers had to swear they weren't working undercover for police and many were made to sign a "death waiver," so in case they overdosed, Volkman wouldn't be held liable.

Authorities say Volkman wanted no notice from the morgue if one of his patients was brought in.

Late Monday, Volkman was convicted in federal court in Cincinnati of 18 counts of illegal prescription drug distribution, and he was found guilty in connection with four of the patient deaths. He faces 20 years to life in prison and was taken into custody by US Marshals.

Volkman's pill mill was an all-cash business and a cash cow, according to federal prosecutors who are attempting to seize almost $4 million in clinic profits.

At one point, the business was the nation's largest single distributor of OxyContin. The investigation took several years, and during that time Volkman wrote thousands of prescriptions and several of his patients died.

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