CINCINNATI — Federal authorities said Wednesday they have charged 60 people, including 31 doctors, 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.”

Authorities said the 60 includes 53 medical professionals tied to some 350,000 prescriptions and 32 million pills. The operation was conducted by the federal Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, launched last year by the Trump administration.

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Authorities said arrests were being made and search warrants carried out as they announced the charges at a news conference. They didn’t immediately name those being charged.

U.S. health authorities have reported there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017, for a rate of 21.7 per 100,000 people. West Virginia and Ohio have regularly been among the states with the highest overdose death rates as the opioid crisis has swelled in recent years.

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Among those charged was a Tennessee doctor who dubbed himself the “Rock Doc” and is accused of prescribing dangerous combinations of drugs such as fentanyl and oxycodone, sometimes in exchange for sex, authorities said.

Others include a Kentucky doctor who is 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” 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.

— Dan Sewell

  • The “opioid epidemic” was a lie spun by a rich doctor who used fake stats to beef up overdose stats, while hobo heroin use rose. The article about that was in Vanity Fair. I don’t believe the crooked, inept DEA and CDC either. These govt liars and thieves have yet again royally screwed the good folks because of a few scumbags. Welcome to your progressive, liberal utopia…where the state cheats the actual taxpayer as often as possible, while allowing the real criminals free reign.

  • I do not believe the lies put forth by the DEA. They need to stop harrassment of doctors who are prescribing medications to legitimate patients and stop the flow of illegal fentanyl which is wholly responsible for the overdoses! Less than 0.5% of people who have a prescription will have a drug abuse problem and they have problems BEFORE they receive the prescription. The people dying from illegal drugs are mixing it with alcohol and other types of drugs, we need to stop selling alcohol which is far more addictive and deadly and stop forcing drug addicts to buy illegal heroin laced with fentanyl and provide safe injection sites with legitimate heroin until they are able and willing to stop. The witch hunt for doctors is only hurting the elderly and disabled and we are all going to be in pain at some point in life and unable to access the best pain medication we have because of the insanity that allows the DEA to falsely accuse doctors instead of dealing with the truth of drug abuse!
    n

    • Dr.M The DEA and the CDC need to be held accountable for all the deaths caused by people not being able to get their pain relief medication, Period! That would bring this irresponsible action to a quick end. Doctors are being persecuted for absolutely no good reason, but there are doctors that need their face slapped and their butt kicked out of medical practice. The good doctors
      need to get together and stick together in order to protect themselves and patients will back them. Our biggest problems are with the shrinks and they have caused us the most damn harm! Ted

  • Creating an atmosphere in which you take part in creating an individuals addiction, should be punished by making these individuals suffer like an addict. I know there is a hell because there needs a place for these people to go.
    They give medicine a bad name and politicians an excuse to point the finger at someone to hide their own ineptness. Any money from this should go to addiction centers not politicians. It will end up like the tobacco money going to the wrong people for the wrong thing.

  • We need names and states where these doctors practice, otherwise this article does not mean anything.

  • Ok, understood. But we have to clarify something that most writers do not mention…This all has absolutely nothing to do with the vast majority of chronic pain patients who are using opioids responsibly for pain relief. Because we all know, they are somehow going to try to use the information in this yet another article, to justify why they need to stop prescribing pain meds to legitimate patients. They will continually try to blame us for the opioid epidemic and WE CAN NOT EVER allow them to just get away with that!

  • I want a list of names! Seriously, I would like to see these people who call themselves doctors. They are what’s ruining everything for legitimate chronic pain sufferers.

    • Nancy,
      On one of the other news sites, it has a list of Doctors and what they are charged with. Not all are opioid misuse. Some are insurance fraud. I agree though, they ruin it for others.

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