CINCINNATI – Federal prosecutors charged dozens of physicians and pharmacists Wednesday with illegally handing out opioid prescriptions in what they say is the biggest crackdown of its kind in U.S. history. Here’s what you need to know about the pain-pill prescriber sweep that happened in five states.
How many were charged?
Federal prosecutors charged 60 physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners and pharmacists. These health professionals are “drug dealers,” federal officials said, noting that most would be arrested rather than just turning themselves in. This shows the determination of investigators to treat the accused as they treat other drug-trafficking defendants.
How long was the investigation?
The investigation just started in January. The idea was to move fast, said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, “to get the prescription pad and pen out of their hand as quickly as possible.”
Where were these doctors from?
The Appalachian area — including parts of Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and Alabama, which started as an epicenter of the opioid epidemic — continues to be steeped in the problem.
‘White-coated drug dealers’: Doctors, pharmacists among 60 charged in pain pill bust ‘acted like drug dealers’
Why target health care professionals?
The investigation shows that doctors and other prescribers are still part of the opioid epidemic. Eighty percent of heroin and fentanyl users started off with misusing prescription pain killers, making these a gateway drug.
How will this affect patients?
For the first time, crime fighters paired with public health, stationing health workers at clinics and offices to offer patients addiction treatment and help.
- 60 health care professionals
- 350,000 prescriptions
- 32 million pills
- More than 28,000 patients
- 5states: Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Alabama
- 300 investigators
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