Brigham City doctor charged in painkiller scam testifies: 450 pills for patient was ‘appropriate’

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Brigham City doctor acknowledged Tuesday he once prescribed 450 pain pills in 37 days for a patient but testified the drugs were “appropriate medicine” and “had no reason to doubt” the man’s intentions. Dewey C. MacKay, 64, has pleaded not guilty to illegally prescribing millions of painkillers to thousands of patients without evaluating their conditions or proving basic examinations. Prosecutors claimed in opening statements that recklessness led to two patients’ deaths, but MacKay faces charges stemming from only one death in 2006. MacKay took the stand Monday in his defense, testifying that he was trying to help people, and that he had their best interest at heart and trusted his patients. The Salt Lake City courtroom was packed with dozens of MacKay’s family members and supporters. Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard W. Daynes cross-examined MacKay on Tuesday, asking the doctor about a female patient he had seen two days after she had slashed her wrists in a suicide attempt. MacKay acknowledged that he failed to obtain a medical history that would have shown she was battling depression. “I was seeing her for her back, not for her arms,” MacKay said. “I didn’t notice the bandages.” MacKay said he learned another patient had been doctor-shopping to obtain pills but acknowledged giving him a prescription anyway as he intended to closely monitor him. “I monitored him to my satisfaction,” MacKay testified. Had MacKay checked the state database that tracks controlled substances, Daynes argued, he would have discovered that patient was seeing a dozen different medical providers to obtain drugs. MacKay originally was charged with 130 felonies in what prosecutors at the time said might be the largest indictment ever handed down in the state. They have dropped 45 counts. State records show MacKay issued more than 37,700 prescriptions for hydrocodone and oxycodone between June 2005 and October 2009, totaling more than 3.5 million pills. Prosecutors focused the case on 12 specific patients, though they contend MacKay had a revolving door of hundreds who sought pain medications from the one-time orthopedic surgeon. MacKay called it “a gross exaggeration” that he was seeing as many as 120 patients in an 8-hour day. He testified that it was “probably again an exaggeration” that he saw as many as 60 patients in a 3 1/2-hour span. The first two counts of the indictment allege MacKay’s distribution of the controlled substances resulted in one patient’s death in 2006. If convicted on those charges alone, he could spend 35 years in prison and be ordered to pay $2.5 million in fines. The other charges of illegally prescribing and distributing a controlled substance carry sentences of up to 20 years in prison and fines of $1 million each. Attorneys on both sides rested their case Tuesday, and closing arguments were set to begin Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court.

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