BIRMINGHAM, AL (WSFA) - Sixty people have been charged, including dozens of doctors, as a result of a federal strike force takedown aimed at prescription opioid abuse, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The U.S. attorney general’s office and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services joined law enforcement agencies in multiple states Wednesday to make the announcement.
In all, 60 people - including 53 medical professionals - were charged. That includes 31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurse practitioners, and seven other licensed medical professionals.
“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 P. Barr said. “But the Department of Justice is doing its part to help end this crisis. One of the Department’s most promising new initiatives is the Criminal Division’s Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, which began its work in December."
Just four months later, prosecutors announced their results. The DOJ says the defendants are from Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The charges involve more than 350,000 prescriptions for controlled substances and more than 32 million pills.
In Alabama, multiple people - including four doctors - were charged in the state’s northern district in connection to five cases. In one of those cases, the DOJ contends a doctor allegedly recruited prostitutes and other young women with whom he had sexual relationships to become patients at his clinic, while he simultaneously allowing them and their associates to abuse illicit drugs at his house.
“Sometimes the only difference between a drug dealer and a doctor is the white coat,” said U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town for the Northern District of Alabama. “The Department of Justice, DEA, FBI, and other federal, state, and local partners will continue to aggressively address our opioid crisis, from the corner to the clinic, until those responsible for the unlawful distribution of this poison, which too often results in overdose, are brought to justice.”
According to the CDC, approximately 115 Americans die daily of an opioid-related overdose.
If you are seeking help in Alabama, please call: 1-866-264-4073
If you, a family member, friend or loved one believe you may be a victim in any of these cases or in connection with any charged defendant, please visit the following website for additional information: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-vns/case/ARPO