Photo by Dmitry Bayer
Attorney General William P. Barr and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex M. Azar II, together with multiple law enforcement partners, announced Wednesday enforcement actions involving 60 charged defendants across 11 federal districts, including 31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurse practitioners and seven other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in the illegal prescribing and distributing of opioids and other dangerous narcotics and for health care fraud schemes.
HHS announced that since June 2018, it has excluded over 2,000 individuals from participation in Medicare, Medicaid and all other Federal healthcare programs, which includes more than 650 providers excluded for conduct related to opioid diversion and abuse.
“Reducing the illicit supply of opioids is a crucial element of President Trump’s plan to end this public health crisis,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “It is also vital that Americans struggling with addiction have access to treatment and that patients who need pain treatment do not see their care disrupted, which is why federal and local public health authorities have coordinated to ensure these needs are met in the wake of this enforcement operation. 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.”
The charges announced involve individuals contributing to the opioid epidemic, with a particular focus on medical professionals involved in the unlawful distribution of opioids and other prescription narcotics, a priority for the Department. According to the CDC, approximately 130 Americans die every day of opioid overdose.
In the Western District of Tennessee, 15 individuals were charged, involving eight doctors and several other medical professionals. In one case, a doctor who branded himself the “Rock Doc,” allegedly prescribed powerful and dangerous combinations of opioids and benzodiazepines, sometimes in exchange for sexual favors; over approximately three years, the doctor allegedly prescribed approximately 500,000 hydrocodone pills, 300,000 oxycodone pills, 1,500 fentanyl patches, and more than 600,000 benzodiazepine pills.
In the Northern District of Alabama, one case involved owners and operators of a medical clinic and dispensary being charged with the unlawful distribution of controlled substances and health care fraud. In that case, a doctor allegedly prescribed opioids in high dosages, dangerous combinations, and in many cases, after having knowledge that patients failed drug screens and were addicts, preferring cash payments and charging a “concierge fee” that ranged from approximately $50 per visit or $600 per year.
“Today’s takedown demonstrates the FBI’s unwavering commitment to working alongside our Strike Force partners, including the HHS-OIG and DEA, to fight the opioid epidemic and related criminal activity in the Appalachian region,” said FBI Executive Assistant Director Hess. “We will not stand by and allow the harmful and oftentimes deadly practice of over-prescribing highly addictive drugs to continue unchecked. The FBI will pursue medical personnel who misuse their positions of trust to blatantly disregard others’ very lives for their own financial gain.”
For help regarding opioid misuse, call 1-800-662-HELP.