The Justice Department makes several arrests in the Trump Administration’s crackdown on industry professionals responsible for the opioid crisis.
In a recenty crackdown, nearly three dozen doctors and a host of other medical professionals across eight states were charged for illegally prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Those charged include two physicians the agency says prescribed addictive pain medication in exchange for sexual favors and a doctor who prosecutors said prescribed pills for personal use.
The Justice Department indicated the charges were brought about against sixty health care industry individuals, including “31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurse practitioners, and seven other licensed medical professionals” as part of a sweeping crackdown on health care fraud in the states of West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Louisiana. These states have been hit hard by the epidemic and subsequent fraud-related activity.
“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 Barr said, adding that the DOJ “is doing its part to help end this crisis.”
According to the release, many of the doctors signed blank prescriptions that their employees then used to illegally prescribe pills to patients, some of whom the Justice Department said were addicts.
One physician the DOJ says referred to himself as the “Rock Doc,” apparently proud of what he was doing. He “allegedly prescribed powerful and dangerous combinations of opioids and benzodiazepines, sometimes in exchange for sexual favors.” Over the course of three years, the doctor, according to the department, “prescribed nearly 1.5 million pills, the bulk of which were hydrocodone, oxycodone and benzodiazepine pills.’
Another physician charged in the crackdown allegedly “recruited prostitutes and other young women with whom he had sexual relationships to become patients at his clinic” while he would allow them and people they knew to “abuse illicit drugs at his house,” the Justice Department disclosed. His ability to keep them hooked allowed him to reap the profits of their addiction.
The DOJ also said it charged a physician who was making out prescriptions for pills “for his own use,” and a dentist who allegedly prescribed opioids “that had no legitimate medical purpose” and removed teeth “unnecessarily.” This way he was able to profit from unnecessary procedures and, even more so, by getting his patients addicted to their post-procedure pain medication.
According to the statement, the charges, which were announced along with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), are part of President Donald Trump’s effort to hit the opioid epidemic head on, which he declared a national public health emergency two years ago, in 2017. The government is expected to continue cracking down on those who it feels are perpetuating the crisis and who are the real culprits, even if the Sacklers want to take the focus away from manufacturers and place is on the addicts themselves. An email written by Richard Sackler was recently released as part of the litigation against the family and Purdue Pharma that stated, “We have to hammer on abusers in every way possible. They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.”
“The Trump Administration’s law enforcement and public health leaders will continue to work hand in hand to end this crisis that has hit Appalachia hard and steals far too many lives across America every day,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in the statement.