How Prosecutors Worked With a Whistleblower on a Major Opioid Case

One case, many implications for a nationwide crisis

white pills on blue background
A new book offers an inside look into a high-profile opioid case.
Hal Gatewood/Unsplash

In the summer of 2014, Dr. Stan Li, who ran a Queens pain management clinic, was found guilty on two manslaughter charges and a copious number of other charges. Altogether, prosecutors brought 211 charges against him; he was found guilty on 200 of them. It was a significant moment for legal efforts to address the opioid epidemic, and the case was years in the making.

Prosecutor Charlotte Bismuth wrote a book about her experience working on the case, and it’s out now, titled Bad Medicine: Catching New York’s Deadliest Pill Pusher. In an excerpt from it published at CrimeReads, Bismuth details her team’s work with a whistleblower named Valora on the Li case.

“He didn’t care if helping us helped him with [his own case]; he just didn’t want Dr. Li to get away with fraud or dangerous prescribing,” writes Bismuth. The information provided by Valora gave Bismuth and her colleagues a sense of how expansive Dr. Li’s operation was — and how far from medical ethics the doctor was willing to stray.

As Bismuth pointed out in a recent interview, some of the same questions raised in the case of Dr. Li have come up in subsequent prosecutions. Bismuth raises the case of Purdue Pharma as a prominent example of one with many parallels to the Li case.

“The playbook was to market the drug as having a very low risk of addiction, which they knew was a lie,” she says. “A playbook to present the drug as being good and the addicts as being bad — also, obviously a lie. And a blatant weaponization of stigma as a way to eliminate their own accountability.”

The case against Dr. Li may be over, but the issues it raised aren’t going away any time soon. Bismuth’s own account of said case offers an inside look at the challenges of addressing a nationwide issue like this one.

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