Drug companies haven't exactly been strict in tracking and limiting opioid doses. But those doses still need to find their way from the drug company to the user. And that's where doctors come in. According to the Department of Justice, 31 doctors (and 22 other medical professionals) scattered from Alabama to Pennsylvania were responsible for over 350,000 prescriptions of controlled substances that amounted to 32 million pills.
The announcement came after raids that netted 60 defendants, charged with violations of the Controlled Substances Act and health care fraud.
No Good, Just the Bad
"The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history, and Appalachia has suffered the consequences more than perhaps any other region," Attorney General William P. Barr said in a statement:
"But the Department of Justice is doing its part to help end this crisis. One of the Department's most promising new initiatives is the Criminal Division's Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, which began its work in December. Just four months later, this team of federal agents and 14 prosecutors has charged 60 defendants for alleged crimes related to millions of prescription opioids. I am grateful to the Criminal Division, their U.S. Attorney partners, and to the members of the strike force for this outstanding work that holds the promise of saving many lives in Appalachian communities."
Charges were filed against doctors in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and West Virginia, several of whom wrote blank, signed prescriptions for opioids without ever examining clients.
And the Ugly
There were some extreme cases in the Justice Department's sweep. A Tennessee nurse practitioner who called himself the "Rock Doc," allegedly prescribed powerful and dangerous combinations of opioids and benzodiazepines, prescribing approximately 500,000 hydrocodone pills, 300,000 oxycodone pills, 1,500 fentanyl patches, and more than 600,000 benzodiazepine pills in just three years. And according to prosecutors, he would exchange pills for sexual favors.
An Alabama doctor "recruited prostitutes and other young women with whom he had sexual relationships to become patients at his clinic, while simultaneously allowing them and their associates to abuse illicit drugs at his house."
If you've been charged with a crime relating to prescription drugs, contact a local drug crime attorney for help.