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Maui doctor, 51, charged with illegally distributing opioids

                                Hydrocodone Acetaminophen pills in Zelienople, Pa.


    Hydrocodone Acetaminophen pills in Zelienople, Pa.

Dr. Paul A. Kaiwi, Jr., of Wailuku, has been charged with six counts of unlawfully distributing hydrocodone, an opioid used to treat pain, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii.

The criminal complaint against Kaiwi, 51, was unsealed Thursday and alleges that he prescribed the drug without a legitimate medical purpose. He operates Progressive Medical with offices in Wailuku and Hilo.

Kaiwi readily prescribed hydrocodone six times to a Drug Enforcement Administration agent posing as a patient between December 2018 and May 2019, according to an affidavit. He gave the agent a prescription for more than 80 pills, often within minutes of entering the exam room, after little or no medical history or physical examination, documents alleged.

Kaiwi’s prescription history from 2015 to 2020 showed that he freely prescribed opioids often at high doses exceeding guidelines, the complaint said. Altogether, 277 of his patients received prescriptions with morphine milligram equivalents that were twice the upper limit recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, and 66 of them got five times the upper limit, a DEA analysis found.

“Today’s charges reflect our ongoing commitment to hold doctors who unlawfully prescribe controlled substances accountable for their misconduct,” U.S. Attorney Kenji M. Price said. “As many Americans struggle to free themselves from the bondage of opioid addiction, the federal law enforcement community will do its part to hold those who unlawfully feed the addiction accountable for their criminal conduct.”

Hydrocodone and other opioids are often abused by illicit drug users. Of Kaiwi’s patients who obtained prescriptions, 88% received opioids, according to the complaint.

A Hilo pharmacist interviewed by DEA investigators said that some of Kaiwi’s patients kept receiving prescriptions although urinalysis tests showed they were not using the drugs.

Each of the six counts of unlawful distribution of a schedule II controlled substance carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. The complaint also alleges that Kaiwi had falsified medical records.

The case is being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services – Office of the Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael F. Albanese and Mohammad Khatib are prosecuting the case.

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