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In-depth: Local doctor arrested for allegedly writing hundreds of fake prescriptions

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Posted at 12:28 PM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-29 12:28:06-04

PINELLAS PARK, Fla.  — A Pinellas County doctor is in jail for allegedly selling and writing more than 550 fake prescriptions for opioids.

On top of that, when police served a search warrant at Dr. Neelam Uppal's house and office, they found more than $1.9 million in cash, around $175,000 worth of gold bars and multiple prescription pads.

The Tampa Bay area is all too familiar with the opioid epidemic. Research from the Tampa Bay Partnership shows nearly three people died every day from an overdose in 2019.

“Late 90s, early 2000s, when I first really started getting into it, I remember a time when we used to go to three or four different doctors before they had the databases,” said Nathan Cantie, who is a drug addiction survivor and now an advocate of overcoming addition. He works with an organization called the Hope Shot, which is a local recovery community.

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Cantie still remembers how prescription meds changed the course of his life.

“You become so physically dependent on these drugs that no matter what, you have to have them,” said Cantie.

Allison Grace was living with addiction in 2013, and it all started with a pill mill doctor.

“But because she was over 18, doctors didn’t have to communicate with our mother. So, she got addicted. There were no reg-flag laws back then,” said Allison’s sister, Jennifer Webb.

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Webb said there were not even any management systems back then to make sure doctors were not overprescribing prescription meds to people who did not need them.

“She ended up becoming addicted to oxycontin, trying to get into recovery, working really hard at it,” said Webb.

Webb said her sister relapsed several times, like many who live with addiction, until it got too difficult for her.

“But she hit a point of despair, and instead of trying one more time, she took her life while we were running towards her begging her to put the gun down,” said Webb.

Allison was just 19 years old. She would have been 28 next week. Webb said the traumatic event changed the trajectory of her life. She now works with an opioid awareness nonprofit called Live Tampa Bay.

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Allison Grace

“Making sure that families like mine don’t have the same kind of heartache and tragedy that my family experienced,” said Webb.

Cantie advises people to stay away from doctors willing to write prescriptions under the table because it can become a slippery slope toward addiction.

“It seems innoxious, you know; it seems harmless. You’re getting a prescription. You can justify it, you know; my doctor gave this to me, but what they don’t see is what’s in the future, which is a dire physical dependence that’s ultimately going to lead them to dark places,” said Cantie.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, here are some links that can be helpful: