Following over 350 thousand prescriptions for controlled substances, the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force was formed to combat the root of the cause. On April 17th, the Department of Justice announced charges against 60 people - including 31 doctors, 7 pharmacists, 8 nurse practitioners, and 7 other medical professionals.
Six States Hit Hard
ARPO is a joint law enforcement effort that brings together the resources and expertise of the Health Care Fraud Unit in the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section (HCF Unit), the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in six states, as well as the FBI, the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and the DEA.
“The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history, and Appalachia has suffered the consequences more than perhaps any other region,” Attorney General William P. Barr said. “But the Department of Justice is doing its part to help end this crisis. One of the Department's most promising new initiatives is the Criminal Division's Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, which began its work in December. Just four months later, this team of federal agents and 14 prosecutors has charged 60 defendants for alleged crimes related to millions of prescription opioids. I am grateful to the Criminal Division, their U.S. Attorney partners, and to the members of the strike force for this outstanding work that holds the promise of saving many lives in Appalachian communities.” - The Department of Justice
The Worst of the Worst
The charges came four months after the Department of Justice (DoJ) dispatched experienced fraud prosecutors across hard-hit regions in Appalachia.
These cases involve more than 32 million pills being distributed. Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said that it was the equivalent of a dose of opioids for "every man, woman and child," across Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and West Virginia.
One of the most egregious cases involved a nurse practitioner in Tennessee that allegedly prescribed approximately 500,000 hydrocodone pills, 300,000 oxycodone pills, 1,500 fentanyl patches, and more than 600,000 benzodiazepine pills.
More than 100 People Die Every Day
Attorney General Barr and U.S. Attorney Thomas T. Cullen also announced that the ARPO Strike Force will now expand into the Western District of Virginia, bringing the total of ARPO Strike Force districts to 10.
According to the CDC, 130 Americans die every day from opioid-related overdoses. Clearly the federal government is now motivated to reign in the flow of illegal prescriptions pouring into states that are being devastated by opioids.
Most of the time opioids are prescribed to suppress the symptoms of a larger problem. A medically integrated clinic is designed with treating long-term, chronic pain holistically - the opposite of the way things are now in American medicine.
The Best Healthcare System
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