Daily Archives: 01/17/2004

NASA Abandons Hubble Telescope

Well that didn’t take long did it? NASA announced the cancellation of all future repair and maintenance missions to the Hubble Space Telescope on Friday, dooming the telescope after 14 years in orbit. President Bush declared that all resources now be focused on a moonbase, including the space shuttle and space station. All future space shuttle missions will focus on completing construction of the space station. The space shuttles will be retired by 2010, leaving barely enough time to haul the remaining pieces of the station into orbit.

Regrettably this means that all shuttle missions not associated with the station are cancelled, including this year’s maintenance and upgrade mission to the aging space telescope. Without replacement gyroscopes and batteries, the space telescope will probably become useless in 2007 or 2008, ending one of NASA’s most spectacularly successful projects. Guess that’s what happens when the president decides he wants a moonbase to help in the conquest of Mars but doesn’t feel like increasing NASA’s budget. Didn’t JFK double NASA’s budget when he declared the nation’s goal of putting a man on the moon?

Physician Pleads Guilty

Another local doctor has plead guilty to illegally distributing prescription pain killers. Dr. Vincent Duenas plead guilty in November but the case was unsealed yesterday. Court documents state that Duenas supplied oxycodone hydrochloride – Percocet – to one individual from April 2000 to October 2002. Federal authorities did not reveal the identity of the recipient of the narcotics, but documents state that Duenas supplied him with the drug knowing that he was probably addicted to the pain killers.

Dr. Duenas isn’t the only physician busted in the last year for prescribing pain medication. Dr. Davina Lujan and Dr. Vivien Batoyon Sagisi both plead guilty in last year to conspiracy to illegally distribute the pain killer.

Here are the terms of the plea agreement Duenas entered in November:

THE PLEA AGREEMENT

  • Dr. Vincent A. Duenas has agreed to cooperate fully with the U.S. The defendant understands and agrees that complete and truthful cooperation is a material condition of this agreement.
  • He agreed to take no steps directly or indirectly to “tip” or warn any subject of this investigation that the defendant, a subject, or anyone else is being investigated.
  • If Duenas’ plea is ever rejected, withdrawn, vacated, or reversed at any time, the U.S. will be free to prosecute Duenas “for all charges of which it then has knowledge, and any charges that have been dismissed will be automatically reinstated or may be represented to a grand jury with jurisdiction over the matter,” court documents state.
  • He agreed to voluntarily surrender his Drug Enforcement Administration registration at sentencing. The United States agrees to make known the nature and extent of defendant’s cooperation to those responsible for determining any later application for reinstatement of defendant’s DEA registration.
  • Duenas understands that he may be subject to administrative action by state and territorial agencies as a result of his guilty plea entered pursuant to this agreement.
  • Duenas also understands and agrees that the status of any professional license held by him is not protected by the plea agreement and is “a matter solely within the discretion” of the appropriate licensing authority.

Plea agreement, U.S. District Court of Guam

PENALTY

  • The maximum penalty for the offense is imprisonment for 20 years and/or a fine of $1 million, a term of supervised release to be determined by the court, and a special assessment in the amount of $100.

OTHER PLEA AGREEMENTS

  • Former Guam Memorial Hospital Administrator Dr. Davina Lujan pleaded guilty, in a Nov. 13, 2002, plea agreement, to conspiracy to illegally distribute the pain killer Percocet. She wrote prescriptions for Percocet without conducting physical exams on the person for whom she prescribed it, and knew the pain killer was to be delivered to a third party. Lujan was appointed GMH administrator by former Gov. Carl Gutierrez after he disbanded the hospital board.
  • Under a plea agreement, Dr. Vivien Batoyon Sagisi pleaded guilty in March last year to conspiracy to distribute the drug Percocet. On different occasions in 2002, Sagisi wrote prescriptions for Percocet without conducting physical examinations on the person for whom she prescribed it. She also knew the pain killer was to be delivered to a third party. One person for whom a prescription was written was Antonina M. Palomo, according to Sagisi’s plea agreement. Palomo, also known as Toni Cross, was a special assistant to former Gov. Carl Gutierrez and was earning $70,000 a year, according to the governor’s office fiscal 2002 staffing pattern. Sagisi knew Palomo was to deliver the pain killer to other people, the plea agreement said.

The identity of the recipient of the Percocet was not disclosed. It’s probably the worst kept secret on Guam though. Let me just say there are plenty of rumors about a certain person’s history of drug problems, both on and off island.

I was surprised to learn how prevalent the use of pain killers is on Guam. I spent a large part of this past week in discussions with pharmacists and the topic came up several times. They talked about whole families addicted to pain killers and how difficult it was to detect and stop the abuse. Perhaps the recent admission by Rush Limbaugh about his dependency on pain killers will prompt more frank and open discussion about drug policy in the nation.