- Associated Press - Friday, April 8, 2016

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - A physician in central Alabama has been sentenced to 30 months in prison after illegally dispensing narcotic painkillers without legitimate medical reason, prosecutors said.

U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler sentenced Dr. Muhammad Wasim Ali of Vestavia Hills on 10 counts of unlawfully distributing controlled substances, U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance announced in a news release on Friday. The 51-year-old defendant had pleaded guilty to the charges in November.

“Today’s sentence should send a clear message to those who illegally distribute drugs,” said Clay A. Morris, Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Special Agent in Charge. “DEA and our law enforcement partners will work relentlessly to protect our communities, citizens and neighborhoods against illegal drug distribution that leads to drug addiction and ruined lives.”

The judge also ordered Ali to forfeit $2,450 to the government and fined him $85,000.

Ali acknowledged dispensing 1,100 oxycodone pills to three undercover officers in 2014 without conducting acceptable medical examinations, according to prosecutors. They said Ali’s medical files also listed multiple falsified examinations.

Ali will be placed on supervised release for three years following his prison term. He has surrendered his medical license.

During the supervised release, Ali cannot work in any medical facility that handles or prescribes controlled substances.

Ali practiced medicine at the Walker Rural Health Care/Jasper Neurological Care clinic. He was one of three Birmingham-area physicians charged last year as part of the DEA’s Operation Pilluted in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. That was an initiative to reduce trafficking and abuse of pharmaceuticals.

Vance said Alabama leads the nation in the number of per capita prescriptions for opioid painkillers, calling the distinction troublesome.

“While responsible and legitimate painkiller prescribing is an important part of the practice of medicine, doctors who use their prescription pads to provide opiates without legitimate medical reason are illegally dealing drugs,” she said. “My office and our law enforcement partners are committed to shutting that down.”

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