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The new war on drugs: prescription painkillers

Opioid epidemic finds doctors and pharmacists facing criminals charges 

As health officials pay more attention to opioid addiction, law enforcement is zooming in how those addicts are getting their painkiller fix. Medical professionals are under greater scrutiny for prescribing opioids and other individuals and entities find themselves caught up in this new war on drugs.

In the past, the DEA and state agencies have focused on pain management clinics and online "pill mills." Increasingly, investigators are targeting individual doctors, nurses and pharmacists and charging them with drug trafficking, fraud and even homicide.

These are serious felonies with prison terms and career repercussions. If you believe you are under investigation by state or federal authorities, do not hesitate to talk to a criminal law attorney with experience in drug crime defense.

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The dragnet for prescription drug crimes is getting wider

In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared prescription drug addiction an epidemic. Millions of Americans are addicted to painkiller medications like OxyContin and Percocet, or abusing Ambien, Adderall and opioids as recreational drugs. This has led to wide-ranging criminal and civil prosecutions.

In 2014, federal authorities in New York indicted doctors and others in a massive scheme involving 5 million oxycodone pills. A year later, the DEA made an even bigger bust in a multi-state probe that included 22 physicians and pharmacists. In 2014, FedEx was indicted in a California federal court for turning a blind eye to online pharmacies shipping drugs without prescriptions. Increasingly, the headlines involve individuals and small businesses:

  • Former doctor sentenced for selling oxycodone prescriptions
  • Nurse practitioner indicted for illegally distributing oxycodone
  • Former police officer sentenced in an online pharmacy scheme
  • Doctor charged with drug distribution and prescription fraud
  • Clinic faces asset forfeiture for illegal distribution of painkillers
  • Councilman convicted of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone
  • Pharmacist faces criminal and civil charges for oxycodone scheme
  • Doctor convicted of three murders in opioid overdose case

Just trying to help people in pain

In her new book "Drug Dealer, M.D.," psychiatrist Andrea Lembke explains how well-intentioned doctors fueled an opioid epidemic and unwittingly became pill pushers. Her own epiphany came when she discovered that some of her patients were filling the same prescription at multiple pharmacies.

Law enforcement does not always assume positive intent. General practitioners, pain specialists and pharmacists may find themselves under investigation for over-prescribing medications or facing civil lawsuits for wrongful death. Merely being accused of drug crimes can result in termination or professional license sanctions. Dealing proactively with the underlying criminal allegations is critical to mitigating the damage.

Source: "Drug Dealer, M.D."(NPR)

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