Oklahoma doctors charged with illegal drug distribution after 5 patient deaths

OKLAHOMA CITY - Two Oklahoma doctors are facing charges related to the over-prescription of drugs, resulting in the death of five patients.

Dr. Melvin Robison and Dr. Moheb Hallaba have been arraigned in federal court.

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Troester, Dr. Robison hired Dr. Hallaba in September 2015 to write prescriptions at his clinic in Sayre, Oklahoma, which saw between 90 to 100 patients each day.

"From September of 2015 to April 2017, both doctors are alleged to have signed hundreds of prescriptions per week without reviewing patient files or even seen the patients," Troester said. "Prescriptions that included large amounts of opioids such as oxycodone, OxyContin, hydrocodone, morphine, and fentynal -- those prescriptions written concurrently were prescriptions for benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium."

According to the indictment, a combination of those drugs could result in a "greatly increased risk of respiratory depression and death."

Robison and Hallaba both face 54 counts of the illegal distribution of a controlled substance "outside the usual course of professional medical practice and without legitimate medical purpose", along with distributions that resulted in death.

The indictment states the five patients died from a variation of drug toxicities which included the use of oxycodone and fentanyl on the following dates:

  • November 9, 2015
  • May 19, 2016
  • September 28, 2016
  • February 10, 2017
  • April 3, 2017

"If convicted, each defendant faces up to 20 years for each count alleging illegal distribution of controlled substances," said Troester. "Not less than 20 years and up to life on each of the five counts of distribution alleged to have resulted in the deaths."

Judy Bruner lives in Sayre, and said she saw Robison's physician's assistant; however, she has friends who were treated by Robison himself.

"They liked the idea of seeing him, because any time they needed pain medicine they were allowed to get it.  Anytime they wanted it, they came down, saw him, he handed it to them," Bruner said. "I’ve heard a lot of stories about Melvin, how he got real bad with medication."

Robison is being represented by Sandy Coats, former U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma. In a statement sent to News 4, Coats said:

“Dr. Robison spent his career trying to help patients with their medical problems, including those in chronic pain, and intends to fervently defend himself against the charges filed against him.”

Tom Snyder with the Christiansen Law Group is representing Hallaba. Snyder declined to comment on the case Friday.

A trial is scheduled for August 14, 2018.