CINCINNATI — Federal authorities say they have charged 60 people, including 31 doctors, for their roles in illegal prescribing and distributing of opioids and other dangerous drugs.
The action announced Wednesday in Cincinnati and Washington resulted from the federal Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force and includes defendants in at least seven states. They are Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Authorities say the 60 include a total of 53 medical professionals tied to some 350,000 prescriptions and 32 million pills.
U.S. health authorities have reported there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017, for a rate of 21.7 per 100,000 people. West Virginia and Ohio have regularly been among the states with the highest overdose death rates as the opioid crisis has swelled in recent years.
“If so called medical professionals behave like drug dealers, we are going to treat them like drug dealers,” officials said.
Federal officials said during the conference it is the single largest prescription opioid law enforcement operation in history with the highest number of medical professionals ever charged by the department with prescription opioid related crimes.
“By removing illegal prescribers and distributes from the system we are working to prevent the next generation of addicts,” officials said.
Federal officials said the effort is to protect patients against opioid misuse.
Officials said each of the indictments will be made available on the U.S. Department of Justice’s website.
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