DEA Announces Largest-Ever Prescription Drug Operation

DEA Announces Largest-Ever Prescription Drug Operation

The Drug Enforcement Administration apparently is intensifying its efforts on what it believes is pain medication abuse in the United States.

deaThe DEA and federal prosecutors have announced they’ve made 280 arrests, including 22 doctors and pharmacists in four southern states. The 15 month investigation – which the DEA dubbed “Operation Pilluted” – was centered in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

The operation was led by the DEA New Orleans Field Division and utilized intelligence data, information provided by state and local law enforcement, and complaints made by citizens, to identify those involved in prescribing, obtaining, and distributing controlled substances such as Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and Xanax.

“DEA is committed to reducing the destruction brought on by the trafficking and abuse of prescription drugs through aggressive criminal enforcement, robust administrative oversight, and strong relationships with other law enforcement agencies, the public, and the medical community,” said DEA Special Agent in-Charge Keith Brown. “The doctors and pharmacists arrested in Operation Pilluted are nothing more than drug traffickers who prey on the addiction of others while abandoning the Hippocratic Oath adhered to faithfully by thousands of doctors and pharmacists each day across this country.”

The DEA, in addition to arresting the 22 doctors and pharmacists, took action to remove or restrict the ability of other prescribers. It issued two immediate suspension orders and obtained a voluntary surrender for cause of 40 other prescribers.

The doctors and pharmacists arrested were part of a total of 280 individuals arrested on Federal and state charges related to their illegal pharmaceutical trafficking activities.  21 search warrants were executed across Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.  51 vehicles, 202 weapons, and $404,828 in cash were seized in the operation.  73 seizure warrants were executed which resulted in the seizure of $11,651,565 USC and $6,745,800 in real property.

The DEA’s mission, according to its press release, is to identify and target the individuals and organizations responsible for the illicit trafficking of pharmaceutical controlled substances.

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

There are 14 comments for this article
  1. Steve M at 6:14 pm

    The “voluntary” surrender means that they threatened to arrest them, seize all of their assets and not allow them to defend themselves in court so they gave up on their patients knowing that they did nothing wrong.

    Things are bad enough, the DEA needs to go after DRUG TRAFFICKERS and stop harassing doctors who prescribed a little more than their scared peers. They are illegally practicing and regulating medicine and that is not their mandate. They were supposed to go after doctors who intentionally used their prescribing power to deal drugs, not a doctors who believe that their patients shouldn’t have to suffer. Yes, some addicts will pose as patients, but it’s rare and wee need to focus on the 100 million pain patients, not the couple thousand people who die from intentionally misuse opioids. Plenty more people die from NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, Voltaren/diclofenac, etc), but my doctor isn’t getting hauled away for prescribing me 540 pills of high dose ibuprofen every month. My wife’s grandmother was killed by a prescription of Naprosyn, but he didn’t face criminal charges for inappropriate prescribing (which it was) or wrongful death.

    They tout these deaths that are irrelevant to doctors and pain patients, but they don’t really care about the deaths, they just can’t stand one person getting high.

  2. Flora at 5:52 pm

    My hats off to the last three comments I read specifically about pain medications and those who take meds just to have some relief from the pain they suffer every minute of everyday…even walking up from sleeping from the pain integrating itself into their dreams so that sleep isn’t even an escape. Anyone who is in chronic pain constantly, is in a support group, who clearly doesn’t use pain meds as their only form of pain relief (which those of us in severe pain does NOT take away the pain but just makes it somewhat tolerable) takes the medications as prescribed, makes sure each specialist is in contact with any other Doctor they are seeing and knows what is prescribed so they are
    Not duplicated, should be considered dependent
    Not a drug addict. Until someone knows what it is like to have severe chronic pain day, in day out for more than a year should be excluded from commenting based on lack of experience and knowledge.

  3. David Willis at 1:02 pm

    I have had CRONIC PAIN for several years now and HAVE to go to a pain clinic. They give you drug test and I have NEVER had a problem with them, but I don’t abuse what they give me. If you take the meds as you are told and don’t self medicate then you should have no problems. It is these people that go out and take them just when they want them then run out before their next appointment that are making it harder for the people who REALLY NEED THEM.

  4. Miles E. Tilly at 12:09 pm

    As a chronic pain patient (kyphoscoliosis and related conditions), I’m very concerned about this issue of legal v illegal access to prescription opiates. My physician has been prescribing opiates (Morphine Sulfate and Oxycodone hcl) to control my severe, chronic pain and episodes of Breakthrough Pain for 11 years. These medications are very efficient in controlling my pain. This is very important because I’ve been told by more than one physician that surgery wouldn’t control my pain. One of these physicians was the head of the orthopedic clinic at Stanford University Hospital and the other was the orthopedic surgeon, who performed knee-replacement surgery on both my knees. Need I say more.

  5. Nancy Ribok at 9:04 am

    Also…in regards to this new focus to identify and target individuals (doctors and pharmacists) and organizations who are responsible for illicit trafficking of controlled substances.
    This scares me too. My fear comes from all the chronic pain sufferers who have lived with pain meds to help them function. My fear is that doctors will be fearful of prescribing appropriate meds. My fear is more and more doctors will say opioids don’t work for chronic pain. I think someone forgot to ask the patients.

  6. Nancy Ribok at 8:47 am

    After reading the report from the DEA regarding the huge increase in opiod deaths from 1999-2010, it is still unclear how they determined how these patients died. Did they all die from abuse? Did they have prescriptions? Did they have a terminal illness? Were they on hospice? Did they have a serious chronic pain condition?
    Did people die from the illness or the medications they used. Other meds if given improperly may cause death, such as heart meds or diabetes meds., they may also take pain meds for a long standing severe back pain. The report is not clear. There needs to be another report independently from DEA, from 2011 on.

  7. Carl at 5:00 am

    Not too many years ago upon reading this article I’d have said good for them.

    Nowadays as someone who has chronic pain I have an entirely different perspective on the issue.

    The pill pushers should be removed. Drug seekers are almost always going to be able to get what they want regardless of the law and regardless of who gets hurt in the process.

    What will really happen is that those of us who need these meds are NOT going to be able to get them period. No honest doctor in their right mind will prescribe them for fear of having their licenses revoked.

    The only way this will change is if a couple of big time politicians get labeled as drug seekers. A different version of this happened during the era where anybody could call an 800 number and have someone permanetly entered on a list of people who abuse children. Someone started calling in politicians and beaureaucrats names. That law was changed quickly.

  8. marty at 3:47 am

    It’s a shame so many professional’s were involved in this. Thanks for hurting those of us who really need pain meds for chronic pain. I have had every injection allowed and they don’t work anymore. That leaves me taking pain pills (which I don’t want to take) just to dull the pain enough to stand with a walker. The pain is never gone. By afternoons I am in tears daily. I only take one pain med as all the rest of them make me like a zombie and I want to at least enjoy what little bit of function I have left. Please don’t penalize those of us with chronic pain. It could be a life or death sentence for us.

  9. Mark Ibsen at 3:40 am

    HIPPOCRATIC OATH: CLASSICAL VERSION
    I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Hygieia and Panaceia and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will fulfill according to my ability and judgment this oath and this covenant:
    To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him, and if he is in need of money to give him a share of mine, and to regard his offspring as equal to my brothers in male lineage and to teach them this art—if they desire to learn it—without fee and covenant; to give a share of precepts and oral instruction and all the other learning to my sons and to the sons of him who has instructed me and to pupils who have signed the covenant and have taken an oath according to the medical law, but no one else.
    I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.
    I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect. Similarly I will not give to a woman an abortive remedy. In purity and holiness I will guard my life and my art.
    I will not use the knife, not even on sufferers from stone, but will withdraw in favor of such men as are engaged in this work.
    Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves.
    What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about.
    If I fulfill this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.
    —Translation from the Greek by Ludwig Edelstein. From The Hippocratic Oath: Text, Translation, and Interpretation, by Ludwig Edelstein. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1943.
    Â
    A piece of parchment paper as a title page of Hippocratic Oath
    Just as medical textbooks have come a long way from Hippocrates’ archaic writings, the modern versions of the oath veer far from the classical. Enlarge
    Photo credit: Aldus Manutius/public domain
    HIPPOCRATIC OATH: MODERN VERSION
    I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
    I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
    I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
    I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.
    I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.
    I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
    I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
    I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
    I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
    If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.
    —Written in 1964 by Louis Lasagna, Academic Dean of the School of Medicine at Tufts University, and used in many medical schools today.

  10. Dennis Kinch at 9:22 pm

    Will the National Pain Report be keeping tabs and informing us on this? If the DEA truly caught all of these people illegally trafficking prescription drugs then my hat is off to them, but …the DEA hasn’t been known for targeting or imprisoning the right people. Usually at this point they will try to “duck out” of the limelight and hide the facts of the case.

    I hope too, that at the beginning and end of every article written about this bust, they make sure to put in it, “And of course this should be no reflection on the millions of respectable, legal prescription drug users who always use the system properly.”
    AM I pipe dreaming again?

  11. NOTSONUTSO at 3:38 pm

    I’ve been on percocet for 15 years & have never abused it. THe day I am refused my pain medication will be the last day of my life. Being in constant, relentless, unrelenting pain is a fate worse than death.

  12. John S at 3:20 pm

    Oh, thank god. I was afraid they were watching me
    this entire time. Seriously though, it’s good to see the
    DEA is nailing the DEALERS and others that have access
    to these schedule 2 drugs.

    Please take note – Doctors & Pharmacist – were
    behind a lot of this and probably some of the same people
    that wouldn’t write or fill for pain meds for chronic pain
    patients.

    The bottom line is – MONEY – these drugs have a street value
    worth $1.00 per milligram. As long as demand is there the supply
    will grow and with that the price.

    This follows news from today that stated prescription pain killer
    use was down and HERION & METH use is up dramatically in the
    USA. The Mexican drug cartels have found the market for the 2 drugs
    has increased over the last few years

    The DEA did their job and no patients were arrested so
    lets be happy about that.

    Off topic – last week my Dr. told me I was now required to take random urine tests to make sure I’m using my medication and not selling it. I kept thinking and hoping the pot I smoked in 1975 wasn’t going to show up on the test. Impossible but that’s how paranoid I can be sometimes. Of course the staff treated me like a scumbag drug user but I’ve grown accustomed to it.

    Thanks,

    John S

  13. LouisVA at 2:47 pm

    Just when I thought that there was hope for people who live their lives with severe, intractable pain – here comes the DEA with another show of force against pain patients, doctors, and pharmacists. As police forces around our country have turned into military-style brigades, the DEA is as well. I hope they succeed in their mission to rid our country of life-saving medications. WHY ARE PAIN PATIENTS PUNISHED BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE ABUSE THESE MEDICATIONS?