CINCINNATI, Ohio — Some 60 defendants, including doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals, for their roles in illegally prescribing and distributing millions of pills containing opioids and other dangerous drugs.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman of Cincinnati described the action as the biggest known takedown yet of drug prescribers. Robert Duncan, U.S. attorney for eastern Kentucky, called the doctors involved “white-coated drug dealers.”
According to CBS News, the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force – which was just last year by the Trump administration – discovered that more than 350,000 prescriptions and 32 million pills were distributed to patients in 11 states, including Tennessee. Authorities said arrests were being made and search warrants carried out as they announced the charges at a news conference in Cincinnati.
They didn’t immediately name those being charged, but we do know that at least two health professionals in the Volunteer state were caught up in the operation.
One of them, known as the “Rock Doc,” allegedly prescribed 500,000 hydrocodone pills, 300,000 oxycodone pills, 1,500 fentanyl patches and more than 600,000 benzadiazepine pills over the course of three years. He also allegedly exchanged these dangerous drugs for sexual favors.
Even more shocking, another Tennessee doctor – who was not identified – was accused of prescribing 4.2 million opioid pills.
Other states who participated in the operation include Ohio, Alabama, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Florida.
One doctor in Kentucky was accused of writing prescriptions to Facebook friends who came to his home to pick them up, another who allegedly left signed blank prescriptions for staff to fill out and give to patients he hadn’t seen, and a Kentucky dentist accused of removing teeth unnecessarily and scheduling unneeded follow-up appointments.
A Dayton, Ohio, doctor was accused of running a “pill mill” responsible that that allegedly dispensed 1.75 million pills in a two-year period. Authorities said an Alabama doctor recruited prostitutes and other women he had sexual relations with to his clinic and allowed them to abuse drugs in his home.
Most of those charged came from the five strike force states of Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia. One person each was also arrested in Pennsylvania and Louisiana.
“The opioid crisis is the deadliest drug crisis in American history, and Appalachia has suffered the consequences more than perhaps any other region,” U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in a statement in Washington.
In response to the indictments, the state of Tennessee has activated statewide call lines and community resources to help these patients.
“With a situation like this, the fear is that an interruption in opioid pain medication may cause patients to experience some symptoms of withdrawal, and that can lead to increased risktaking,” said the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
If you need a referral to addiction treatment services, call 800-889-9789. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call 855-CRISIS-1.