More than 50 health workers across six states on Wednesday were charged with helping illegally prescribe and distribute opioids and other drugs, including one Tennessee doctor who dubbed himself the “Rock Doc” and is accused of handing out powerful opioids in exchange for sexual favors, the Justice Department announced.
The charges implicate 31 doctors, eight nurse practitioners, seven pharmacists and other health practitioners in Alabama, Kentucky, Florida, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia, from a pharmacy in Ohio that dispensed nearly 2 million pills over two years, to a doctor in Kentucky who gave staff pre-signed blank prescriptions for opioids and a doctor in Florida who received kickbacks from a nearby pharmacy for prescribing certain drugs.
“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 in a statement. “But the Department of Justice is doing its part to help end this crisis.”
The charges are part of a broader effort by the Justice Department to address the opioid epidemic. The department last year charged more than 600 people – including 165 doctors – with illegally distributing opioids and other drugs.
More than 47,600 people died of opioid-related overdoses in 2017, the most recent year for which federal opioid data is available. In Appalachia, which stretches from northern Mississippi to western New York, opioid overdoses have soared, jumping in some states by as much as 1,000 percent between 2011 and 2016, according to a study last year by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
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