CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Federal law enforcement agents and health officials announced Wednesday that 60 defendants have been charged for their alleged participation in illegally prescribing and distributing opioids.
The individuals indicted include 31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurse practitioners, and seven other licenses medical professionals.
The announcement involving medical professionals contributing to the opioid epidemic was made during a press conference with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama, as well as officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, FBI, and DEA.
“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 Barr said. “But the Department of Justice is doing its part to help end this crisis.
Charges involve over 350,000 prescriptions for controlled substances and over 32 million illegally prescribed pills.
“We have bed space in federal prison for those doctors who want to act like drug dealers,” a federal official announced.
The operation was conducted by the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force across 11 federal districts that include Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama; several states that have been faced the most significant impact from the opioid crisis.
“Opioid misuse and abuse is an insidious epidemic, created in large part, by the over-prescribing of potent opioids nationwide, and unfortunately, Appalachia is at the center,” said DEA Assistant Administrator Martin. “Today’s announcement sends a clear message that investigations involving diversion of prescription drugs have been, and continue to be, a priority for DEA.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 46 people die every day from overdoses involving prescription opioids.
In addition to the opioid takedown, officials announced that the ARPO Strike Force has expanded to include the western portion of Virginia.