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Horsham doc charged in connection with death in massive pill mill case

A 73-year-old doctor from Montgomery County was charged today in a death related to a large pill mill operation federal authorities first brought to light last year.

A superseding federal indictment was unsealed today against Dr. Normal Werther, of Horsham, who once ran a Willow Grove physical therapy and rehabilitation facility. Prosecutors charge that Werther prescribed Oxycontin to "pseudo-patients" in a method that "mirrored the need of the drug traffickers."

Werther was first indicted in August, 2011, along with 51 others in what was called a multi-million dollar conspiracy that involved prescribing illegal prescriptions to phony patients on a scale that rivaled drug trafficking.

Today's indictment adds nine new defendants, and additional charges, including "distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death." It is the first such case of its kind in the U.S. Attorney's Eastern District of Pennsylvania office.

According to the indictment Werther dispensed dozens of oxycodone pills to an unspecified person in September 2010 without legitimate medical purpose. That person, identified only as "N. B." then died from using the drug.

In all, authorities allege that Werther conspired with six separate groups of drug dealers. He is charged in multiple counts of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, distribution of controlled substances, maintaining a drug-involved premises, and money laundering. He faces a mandatory 20 years and maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of all charges.

Werther allegedly worked with the traffickers, who recruited bogus patients and set aside time each day to see the patients. Werther's office staff transported the patients to an office on Davisville Road in Willow Grove for exams in return for a $150 visit fee. Werther then wrote prescriptions for the fake patients to obtain oxycodone-based drugs, authorities allege.

The patients were driven to pharmacies to fill the prescriptions, which were then turned over to dealers who sold them on the street.

Federal authorities say the drug selling conspiracy operated between February 2009 and August 2011, and resulted in the illegal distribution of more than 700,000 oxycodone pills.

A total of 67 defendants have now been charged in the case. Most have pleaded guilty.