Federal prosecutors charged 60 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.
Some of the doctors are accused of trading drugs for sex, giving prescriptions to Facebook friends without proper medical exams and unnecessarily pulling teeth to justify writing pain pill prescriptions.
The list of indicted medical professionals includes podiatrists, orthopedic specialists, dentists, general practitioners and nurse practitioners.
Prosecutors said the specialties and methods varied among the accused, but the result in every case was the same: People addicted to pain medication received dangerous amounts of opioids, including oxycodone, methadone and morphine.
“They said the illegal prescriptions put as many as 32 million pain pills in the hands of patients.”
They said the illegal prescriptions put as many as 32 million pain pills in the hands of patients.
A special strike force from the U.S. Department of Justice began making arrests early Wednesday, primarily in rural areas across Appalachia, which has been especially hard hit by addiction to heroin and pain medication.
One of the doctors charged is Raymond Noschang, an internal medicine specialist with an office in Sycamore Township. The names and indictments of many of the accused were not immediately available because they had not yet been arrested.
Most of the defendants face charges of unlawful distribution of controlled substances involving prescription opioids. Authorities say they gave out about 350,000 improper prescriptions in Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Alabama.
Prosecutors described the doctors involved as drug dealers, rather than medical professionals, and said they were seeing a total of about 28,000 patients at the time of their arrests.