By Bob Uphues
When Dr. Millionpills hastily vacated his Riverside Pain Management clinic at 28 E. Burlington St. over a weekend back in March 2017, he apparently left a few things behind.
During a training exercise inside the non-descript vacant office building in downtown Riverside on April 4, firefighters pried open a steel lockbox affixed to a wall and out tumbled a bottle of prescription pills as well as vials of liquid controlled substances.
"We were doing wall breaches, where we cut holes in the walls to make escape routes, and one of our guys saw the lockbox on the wall," said Fire Chief Matthew Buckley. "So he decided to pry it open, and there were a bunch of narcotics in there."
Among the drugs recovered from the lockbox, according to a police report of the incident, were Midazolam, Clonidine, Diazepam, hydromorphine, Robinul, Phenergan, Romazicon, fentanyl citrate, Epinephrine, Labetalol HCL, Amiodarone, hydrochloride and Ketamine.
Riverside Pain Management operated between January 2013 and March 2017 out of 28 E. Burlington St. Its office manager, Dr. Joseph Giacchino, had his medical license revoked by the state of Illinois in 2011 for improperly prescribing controlled substances and offering medications to patients in exchange for sex.
He was dubbed "Dr. Millionpills" by Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass after federal prosecutors described his then-Melrose Park clinic as a pill mill where powerful opioids were freely distributed to patients who ended up selling them on the street.
Even after being stripped of his medical license, Giacchino continued to operate his clinic in Melrose Park, and then in Riverside, hiring licensed physicians to keep prescribing controlled substances, allegedly at alarming rates.
One of the physicians Giacchino hired for the Riverside clinic was Dr. Paul C. Madison, who was charged with 2012 with medical insurance fraud. Madison was found guilty last November and remains free while awaiting sentencing.
Madison in 2016 also was an unindicted co-conspirator in a lawsuit against executives of a drug company who are accused of bribing doctors to improperly prescribe the fentanyl spray to boost its sales. Madison was the top prescribers of the drug in the state, according to court records.
The state stripped Madison and another doctor employed by Giacchino of their licenses in late 2016. Giacchino closed the Riverside location the following March.
The drugs collected at the Burlington Street office on April 4 were turned over to police, who notified the DEA of the incident. Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said he expects to hear from DEA officials next week.
Buckley said his firefighters were using the office building for training at the invitation of its owner, Patrick Leone, whose company purchased the property last year. According to Buckley, Leone plans on demolishing the building.
An email from the Landmark seeking more information from Leone was not immediately answered.