America’s Largest Opioid Bust Charges 60 Doctors, Pharmacists

Close-up of an opened prescription bottle, labelled as containing the opioid hydrocodone, as a number of its pills lie on a white surface, March 14, 2017. (Photo by Tom Kelley/Getty Images)
Tom Kelley/Getty Images

Federal prosecutors charged 60 physicians and pharmacists from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Alabama on Wednesday for illegally dealing opioids.

According to reporting by, accusations include “trading drugs for sex, giving prescriptions to Facebook friends without proper medical exams, and unnecessarily pulling teeth to justify writing pain pill prescriptions.” Most of these medical professionals face charges of “unlawful distribution of controlled substances involving prescription opioids.”

And while prosecutors say the methods employed were many and varied, all resulted in the distribution of 32 million opioid pills — by way of over 350,000 improper prescriptions — to addicts. “If so-called medical professionals are going to behave like drug dealers, we’re going to treat them like drug dealers,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski.

The arrests were the result of work by the Appalachian Regional Prescription Strike Force, populated by 300 investigators from the five states concerned. Still, the crackdown does not bring relief to those addicted to the painkillers. Benjamin Glassman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, told reporters that the task force is also dedicated to getting help for the suffering.

The goal is “when these facilities are taken down, there are resources in place to give the best possible chance for those victims to get proper treatment,” Glassman said. “Opioids are the public health and safety crisis of our lifetime. This innovation, I hope, will be a road map for the future.”

According to statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 130 people die every day as a result of opioid overdose. This epidemic costs the nation over $78 billion every year.


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