60 people charged in illegal prescription opioid crackdown

CINCINNATI (AP) — Federal authorities said Wednesday they have charged 60 people, including a doctor accused of trading drugs for sex and another of prescribing to his Facebook friends, for their roles in illegally prescribing and distributing millions of pills containing opioids and other drugs.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman of Cincinnati described the action, with 31 doctors facing charges, as the biggest known takedown yet of drug prescribers. Robert Duncan, U.S. attorney for eastern Kentucky, called the doctors involved “white-coated drug dealers.”

Authorities said the 60 includes 53 medical professionals tied to some 350,000 prescriptions and 32 million pills. The operation was conducted by the federal Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, launched last year by the Trump administration.

Authorities said arrests were being made and search warrants carried out as they announced the charges at a news conference. They didn’t immediately name those being charged.

U.S. health authorities have reported there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017, for a rate of 21.7 per 100,000 people. West Virginia and Ohio have regularly been among the states with the highest overdose death rates as the opioid crisis has swelled in recent years.

A Dayton, Ohio, doctor was accused of running a “pill mill” that allegedly dispensed 1.75 million pills in a two-year period. Authorities said an Alabama doctor recruited prostitutes and other women he had sexual relations with to his clinic and allowed them to abuse drugs in his home.

Most of those charged came from the five strike force states of Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia. One person each was also arrested in Pennsylvania and Louisiana.

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