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Former doctor charged in drug-related deaths
By Tony Gordon | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/10/2008 12:32 PM | Updated: 4/10/2008 7:02 PM

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A former Highland Park physician was arrested Thursday and charged with over-prescribing painkillers that have been linked to three patient deaths.

Gerald Kane, 75, was ordered held on $1.5 million bond after a court appearance before Lake County Associate Judge Joseph Waldeck.

Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Scheller said Kane is accused of prescribing massive doses of the painkillers Vicodin and Oxycodone for patients between 2004 and 2007.

Kane was indicted two weeks ago by a Lake County grand jury, but the indictment was sealed until his arrest.

Authorities said the drugs were contributing factors in the 2006 deaths of a 39-year-old Highwood man and a 45-year-old Highland Park man and the 2007 death of a 47-year-old Buffalo Grove man.

Timothy Lenzi, an agent of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, said the agency began receiving complaints about Kane's prescription-writing practices in spring 2005.

Pharmacies throughout the North Shore and family members of his patients began questioning the number of prescriptions Kane was writing and the number of pills in each, he said.

Police in Highland Park and Highwood joined the investigation, Lenzi said, after they fielded complaints that public works employees were receiving large pain killer prescriptions from Kane.

Patient records were seized during a raid on Kane's offices in November 2005, Scheller said, and a review of those records found his prescriptions to be "outside the scope of normal practice."

One victim was given prescriptions for 540 tablets of Oxycodone over five days, Scheller said, when most doctors prescribe no more than five doses per day.

Scheller said Kane is a former orthopedic surgeon whose license to prescribe drugs was revoked last year by the DEA. He surrendered his state license to practice medicine a short time later.

Chicago attorney Andrew Staes argued against the high bond, saying Kane is in poor health and does not pose a flight risk.

"Whether or not the prescription regimen was overly aggressive will be the subject of vigorous debate," Staes said. "But the fact remains that he can no longer write prescriptions, and therefore poses no danger to the community."

Scheller said the deaths of other Kane patients is under investigation, and at least one person has been charged with illegally selling painkillers she received from Kane.

Kane is charged with unlawful delivery of controlled substances and faces up to seven years in prison if convicted. Additional charges could be filed.

He is scheduled to appear in court April 17.