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Punish Those Who Deal Pills

It would be easy to assume, so many years after the over-prescription of opioid painkillers became one of the triggers of today’s substance abuse epidemic, that those “legal” drug dealers have learned their lesson and are no longer fueling the problem.

That would be a mistake. In fact, U.S Department of Justice officials announced recently that health care professionals in seven states have been charged with illegally distributing prescriptions for more than 5 million pills.

These are doctors, dentists, nurses, medical clinic operators — 14 defendants — accused of illegally obtaining painkillers for personal use, unnecessarily prescribing painkillers to obtain Medicare and Medicaid payments, and filling out prescriptions in the names of current and former hospice patients, among other crimes.

Our readers will not have to strain to guess the states in which such accused criminals were operating: Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia. In other words, Appalachia (or, essentially so, as the Appalachian Regional Commission’s definition of the region ends at the Pennsylvania counties bordering New Jersey; and Florida is home to a substantial number of transplanted Appalachians).

In Kentucky, a dentist was charged with illegally prescribing opioids to a patient three times in five days, with the patient dying of a morphine overdose from one prescription, according to the Justice Department.

These folks are shilling poison while working in a profession where they are meant to be helping people. Instead, they are killers. Fortunately, even if many of the rest of us have let them fly under our radar, law enforcement has not forgotten.

“We will continue to bring coordinated enforcement actions to address the opioid scourge plaguing the region,” said Kenneth Parker, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.

Good. Appalachia has fallen victim to predators (of all kinds) for centuries. But we are fighters; and it is comforting to know there is, at least on this front, a continued coordinated effort to fight back.

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