Doctor peddles $60 million of unneeded drugs to poor people

By James Quiggle
January 17, 2017
Was major player in national epidemic of overprescribing powerful drugs

imageMental illness made Dr. Fernando Mendez-Villamil rich and taxpayers that much poorer. 

The Miami psychiatrist spooned out epidemic levels of unneeded antipsychotic drugs to seniors in Medicare and lower-income people in Medicaid — $60 million in false claims.

Mendez-Villamil became a national icon of overprescribing. He peddled nearly 97,000 scripts for powerful drugs to Medicaid patients between 2007 and 2009. That was more than any doctor for mental-health meds in Florida. 

Years of plying people with unneeded drugs finally landed Mendez-Villamil 12 years in federal prison. He was one more swindler in a national epidemic of painkillers and other opioids that doctors and pharmacies are handing to addicts. Many patients overdose or die.

Insurance money pays for billions of dollars worth of the prescriptions. Insurance fraud thus is a major financier of opioid addiction in America today.

A U.S. Senate probe singled out Mendez-Villamil for hawking unneeded and powerful pills to vulnerable lower-income patients. Medicaid was so frustrated it bounced him from the insurance program.

“I feel guilty. I’m sorry for the damage I have done,” Mendez-Villamil admitted before federal sentencing. Mendez-Villamil next soaked Medicare, doling out another 47,000 taxpayer-funded scripts to seniors in just two years. Fed up, Florida’s medical board reprimanded and fined him. 

Mendez-Villamil owned a $1-million mansion in Coral Gables. The place brimmed with expensive art — the feds impounded 221 paintings, prints, sculptures and other artworks when they raided his home. 

“I know what I did was wrong, I was dishonest,” Mendez-Villamil admitted before federal sentencing. “That’s not the way I was raised. ... I apologize for my behavior. I feel guilty. I’m sorry for the damage I have done.”

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