A federal sting operation led to prosecutors charging 60 doctors, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and other medical professionals for illegally prescribing opioids in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Alabama, and West Virginia. All told, 32 million pain pills were doled out illegally in the five states.
One Tennessee doctor alone, who the The Washington Post writes branded himself the "Rock Doc," allegedly prescribed nearly 500,000 hydrocodone pills, 300,000 oxycodone pills, 1,500 fentanyl patches, and more than 600,000 benzodiazepines. The prescriptions were reportedly sometimes written up in exchange for sexual favors.
Per the Post, another doctor in Dayton, Ohio worked with several pharmacists to a run a "pill mill," through which they dispensed more than 1.7 million painkillers between October 2015 and October 2017.
Some doctors were writing 100 prescriptions per day, NPR reports.
The Center for Disease Control has reported that 130 Americans die every day of opioid-related overdoses and Attorney General William Barr has called the epidemic "the deadliest drug crisis in American history." It's no surprise, then, that the Justice Department has targeted doctors, health care companies, and drug manufacturers for their alleged roles in perpetuating the addiction cycle.
However, Brian Benczkowski, the assistant attorney general for the DOJ's criminal division, did say that the sting operation revealed "outliers" and the doctors, pharmacists, and other medical professionals who face charges do not represent the norm. "We're targeting the worst of the worst doctors in these districts," he said.