53 medical professionals charged in sweeping opioid takedown

Dozens of medical professionals in seven states, including 31 physicians, eight nurse practitioners, seven pharmacists and seven other medical workers, are charged with participating in the unlawful prescribing of more than 32 million pain pills.

The charges involve more than 350,000 illegal prescriptions written in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia. The indictment was unsealed in federal court April 17.

The indictment names 60 defendants, 53 of whom are in the medical profession. They all face charges ranging from unlawful distribution of controlled substances to healthcare fraud, and many of them face multiple counts.

In several instances prosecutors claim physicians traded sex for prescriptions. Other defendants alledgedly knowingly prescribed addictive drugs to vulnerable patients, accepted cash payments, signed blank prescription forms and billed Medicare and Medicaid for unnecessary tests and procedures.

"The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history, and Appalachia has suffered the consequences more than perhaps any other region," said Attorney General William Barr.  "But the Department of Justice is doing its part to help end this crisis."

The indictments are part of a broad push by the Justice Department to combat the nation's ongoing opioid epidemic. In particular, indictments were from the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, which was formed in December, to reduce the illicit supply of opioids.

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