Healthcare professionals across the eastern half of the United States, including doctors, a dentist, a nurse and medical clinic operators, have been charged with illegally distributing prescriptions for more than 5 million pain pills, federal authorities said Wednesday.
Fourteen defendants were accused of crimes including illegally obtaining painkillers for personal use, unnecessarily prescribing painkillers to obtain Medicare and Medicaid payments, and filling out prescriptions in the names of current and former hospice patients, the government said.
In one case, a Kentucky dentist was charged with illegally prescribing opioids to a patient three times in five days, with the patient dying of a morphine overdose from one prescription, according to the Justice Department. Other defendants lived or worked in Alabama, Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, West Virginia and Tennessee.
"We will continue to bring coordinated enforcement actions to address the opioid scourge plaguing the region," said Kenneth Parker, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.
Overdose deaths attributed to opioids have continued to rise in the country, even as the crisis was overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, for the first time more than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses over a 12-month period.