A Tennessee physician overscribing opioids and prescribing without examining patients will plead guilty.
Tennessee physician, Dr. Darrel Rinehart, will plead guilty to “distributing a controlled substance” and having a hand in the fatalities of five of his patients over a ten-month period from March 2015 to January 2016, according to his attorney, James Simmons, who filed a motion for a hearing in December on his behalf. Rinehart is facing one count of drug distribution. The decision was evidently made after the doctor reviewed the prosecutor’s evidence presented in discovery. Rinehart told the medical board he was “ignorant of safe prescribing laws.”
The Tennessee doctor, 64, who ran a practice in Columbia for many years and was ultimately indicted on 19 counts of distribution of a control substance in March 2019.
“Obviously, he wouldn’t be entering a plea if we didn’t feel that was an appropriate resolution to the case,” Simmons said.
The federal indictment against Rinehart states that he “routinely prescribed opioids and other drugs without legitimate medical purpose” and that four patients died while in his care.” An undercover video was recently released showing a “patient” asking for medication “to focus” and Rinehart wrote him a prescription for Adderall without assessing the man for attention-deficit disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
State health records showed “at least five of Rinehart’s patients suffered fatal overdoses that were partially or wholly caused by drugs he prescribed between March 2015 and January 2016. At least six more Rinehart patients had nonfatal overdoses between 2014 and 2016, and one of those patients overdosed three times.”
“You always want to do what you could to help people,” Rinehart told a state medical board. “And, yes, sometimes, people tell you things, you believe them, you trust them, you know them, but you know they’re not always honest…That certainly has altered the way I practice medicine now.”
Rinehart worked for at least two decades at Core Physicians, which is also known in the community as Family Health Group, a clinic in Columbia, Tennessee. This was purchased by Maury Regional Hospital in 2015 and the new owners immediately noticed Rinehart’s alleged overprescribing. They took issue with this and confront the doctor, who then relocated to Indiana and worked at least two hospitals.
Rinehart was also criminally investigated by police and prosecutors in Maury County, who used an informant to capture the undercover video footage from inside a room of Rinehart’s clinic. In addition to stating that he needed the medication to focus, the undercover informant also said his pain prescription wasn’t working as well as it used to, and the doctor responded by immediately upping it by 30 percent. This case was never prosecuted.
Maury County District Attorney Brent Cooper his office “intended to charge Rinehart with five counts of criminal homicide but instead gave the case to prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office who became interested in Rinehart after reading about him” in a media review. He believed that the federal agency would be better positioned to prosecute the physician to the fullest extent of the law.