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Trial set for Utah doctor in pain pill case

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Jury selection begins Monday in the federal trial of a Brigham City orthopedic surgeon charged with illegally prescribing millions of painkillers to hundreds of patients.

Dewey C. MacKay has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He faced 129 counts for allegedly prescribing more than 1.9 million hydrocodone pills and 1.6 million oxycodone pills to patients without legitimate needs, but the U.S. Attorney's office in Salt Lake City filed a motion late Sunday requesting a judge dismiss 40 of the counts. Prosecutors said that doing so would allow them to more efficiently present the case at trial and would not have a significant influence on MacKay's sentence if he is found guilty on remaining charges.

Obviously, the indictment contains allegations, nothing more, nothing less. We absolutely and thoroughly dispute them.

–Peter Stirba

According to federal filings, MacKay saw up to 120 patients per eight-hour work day between 2005 and February 2007. From March 2007 to October 2009, prosecutors contend MacKay saw 59 patients per five-hour day.

In both instances, prosecutors contend new patients received limited or no physical exams to diagnose their pain before being issued prescriptions.

The first two counts of the indictment allege MacKay's distribution of the drugs resulted in a patient's death in 2006. If convicted on those charges alone, the 64-year-old could spend 35 years in prison and be ordered to pay $2.5 million in fines. The other charges carry sentences of up to 20 years in prison and fines of $1 million each.

Defense attorney Peter Stirba said he will vigorously fight the charges.

"Obviously, the indictment contains allegations, nothing more, nothing less," Stirba said. "We absolutely and thoroughly dispute them."

Stirba declined to comment further, citing the pending trial. Prosecutors also declined comment.

According to records maintained by the state of Utah, MacKay issued more than 37,700 prescriptions for the painkillers hydrocodone and oxycodone between June 2005 and October 2009, totaling more than 3.5 million pills.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has since revoked MacKay's authorization to prescribe controlled substances.


AP writer Jennifer Dobner contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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