Washington— More than a dozen defendants in eight federal districts have been charged with illegally prescribing and distributing 5.1 million opioid pills, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

The various enforcement actions were the result of the department’s Appalachian Regional Opioid Strike Force (ARPO), a multi-agency approach that targets the illegal prescribing of opioid drugs in the Appalachian region. According to Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite, who was part of Wednesday’s criminal announcement in Cincinnati, Ohio, more than 75,000 Americans died last year from opioid overdoses.

“The Department of Justice will continue to work tirelessly with its partners to address this outbreak and seek to prevent the next tragic loss of life,” Polite said.

The defendants span seven states and account for approximately $7 million in opioid fraud losses, according to the Justice Department. A Florida pharmacist allegedly sold 219,567 oxycodone pills and 112,840 hydromorphone pills on the black market between 2019 and 2021. In a separate case, an Alabama doctor and co-defendant are accused of signing prescriptions and fraudulent medical bills for patients from three different countries. medical clinics. And in Tennessee, a family doctor reportedly prescribed doses of opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone for patients who didn’t need them.

A grand jury indicted Kentucky dentist Jay Sadrinia for allegedly prescribing opioid pills without a legitimate medical purpose in August 2020. That month, Sardinia provided three opioid prescriptions to a 24-year-old dental patient on five days, prosecutors said. The patient later died of a morphine overdose believed to be related to one of the dentist’s prescriptions, according to the Justice Department.

“From January 2016 to September 2020, a review of Dr. Sadrinia’s prescription showed that Dr. Sadrinia issued approximately 3,577 prescriptions for oxycodone, totaling approximately 62,943 pills that were dispensed to his patients,” the authorities also claimed. prosecutors in a recent court filing, the orders they said likely fell “outside the accepted practice of dentistry.” Sadrinia’s defense attorney, Robert McBride, did not comment on his client’s ongoing case, which is expected to go to trial later this month, according to court records.

The Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force has so far charged 111 defendants over three years. In total, these defendants are accused of having prescribed 115 million pills of controlled substances. A person dies of a drug overdose every 5 minutes in the United States, the DEA announced on Wednesday.

“These medical professionals … operate no differently than any drug dealer,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Kenneth L. Parker, said Wednesday. “They’re just wearing white coats as they prescribe dangerous levels of opioids.”

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