A trafficking network of medical providers, clinic owners, pharmacists, drug dealers and traffickers who have allegedly been responsible for diverting over 23 million opioid pills has been apprehended and shut down by the government.
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A total of 41 people have been charged in 9 indictments for their involvement of "pill mill" clinics and pharmacies that distributed over 23 million oxycodone, hydrocodone and carisoprodol pills across the country, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.
The charges against the 41 people allege that doctors, pharmacies and other medical professionals all knew that the prescriptions had no legitimate medical purpose and were outside the course of professional practice.
In one case, the employees at one Houston-area "pill mill" pharmacy allegedly dispensed the ninth highest amount of oxycodone in the nation, which also amounted to the second-most in the entire state of Texas.
"One hundred percent of the oxycodone dispended by this pharmacy -- every single oxycodone pill that left the premises -- was in the highest available dosage strength of that drug." the DOJ said.
The indictment also alleges that drug dealers and traffickers involved in the operation diverted and distributed drugs to the streets for purchase and consumption all the way from Houston to Boston.
"This type of criminal activity is, in part, what is fueling the 68,500 overdose deaths per year across the United States," said Special Agent in Charge Will R. Glaspy of the Drug Enforcement Agency's Houston Division. "The DEA and our numerous law enforcement partners will not sit silently while drug dealers wearing lab coats conspire with street dealers to flood our communities with over 23 million dangerous and highly addictive pills."
Thirty-six search warrants were served on 15 pharmacies, six pill mill clinics, and 15 other offices and residences in an effort by the DEA to disrupt the opioid distribution networks. In addition, the DEA immediately suspended orders on seven pharmacies and two drug providers involved in dispensing drugs without legitimate or reasonable medical purpose.
"Opioid abuse has a devastating and far reaching effect on our society," said Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI’s Houston Field Office. "The doctors, nurses and pharmacists in this case allegedly misused their positions, violating the trust of the public they took an oath to serve. Together with their co-conspirators, these medical professionals released millions of highly addictive drugs onto the streets of our community. FBI Houston remains committed to working alongside our federal, state, and local partners to combat this epidemic and protect our neighborhoods."
U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick was concise when talking about the importance of disrupting the opioid network.
"These clinics are all about money and not the patient," he said. "If it was about the patient, no legitimate doctor would write, and no legitimate pharmacy would fill, these massive amounts and combinations of controlled substances. Pill mills are magnets for crime and should be eradicated … these grifters are wasting tax payer money and making healthcare more expensive for everyone else."