In May, 2015, the Drug Enforcement Administration lead by DEA agent Keith Brown orchestrated a supposed multistate crackdown on prescription drug abuse with raids at pain clinics, pharmacies and other locations in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, called “Operation Pilluted”. This was the culmination of a year-long operation launched in 2014 by the DEA’s drug diversion unit, led by the unit in New Orleans, LA. The crackdown, per DEA authorities was focused on the “illegal” sale of painkillers. In his press release of May 20, 2015, DEA Keith Brown stated it was a “four state takedown targeting dirty doctors, pharmacies and pill mills.” U.S. Attorney Christopher Thyer said in a press conference that drug-poisoning has surpassed traffic accidents as the leading cause of death in the United States.
But here is the real reason: money.
Agents executed 21 search warrants across the four states leading to the seizure of 51 vehicles, 202 weapons and $404,828 in cash and 73 seizure warrants resulted in $11,651,565 cash and $6,745,800 in real property.
The government is making money on the backs of hard-working, dedicated professionals, not criminals as they purport.
The sting was part of a 15-month roundup which involves nearly 1,000 law enforcement officers including the DEA, U. S. Attorney’s Offices, District Attorney’s Offices, Police Departments, Sheriff’s Departments, State Police, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Office of Inspector General, some of whose entire salary, if it is like Southwest Virginia, is entirely dependent on these attacks on doctor’s offices.
As a result, 24 doctors, pharmacies and others have surrendered their DEA registration numbers and the agency is moving to revoke prescribing permission in at least 24 other cases. The people arrested face state and federal criminal charges including distribution of a controlled substance and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. In Arkansas alone, six indictments have charged 113 people, including five doctors.
Among the medical professionals targeted were Drs. Shawn Michael Brooks, Felicie Wyatt, Jerry Reifeiss and Richard Johns, and Bowman Road Pharmacy in Little Rock, Arkansas not far from the DEA’s local field office, Perry County pharmacist Christopher Watson, Drs. John Couch and Xiulu Ruan in Mobile, Alabama, Dr. Robert Ritchea in Phenix City, Alabama, and Shanta Barnes, the program director of Louisiana Health and Rehabilitation Options in Baton Rouge, Louisianna.
The DEA’s justification for this operation was based on numbers. DEA Keith Brown states the following 2013 statistics:
43.982 unintentional drug overdose deaths in the US, or one every 13 minutes.
- 22,767 of those deaths, or 52% due to prescription drugs.
16,235 of those deaths, or 71% due to opioids. That means that 44 overdose deaths a day involve prescription opioids.
DEA prescription data show that Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana were among the top 11 states for prescribing hydrocodone in 2014. They also used the justification that people who become addicted to prescription painkillers often turn to heroin when it becomes too difficult to get a prescription.
$200 billion in health care costs each year
Well at least they are starting to admit that their activity is causing the increase in heroin use. But that shouldn’t justify their action, it condemns it.
Other statistics show:
1. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after a decade-long explosion of painkiller overdoses, the country saw its first drop in prescription deaths in 2012, and the numbers leveled off after that.
2. The highest death rates are among people ages 35 to 54.
3. Nearly 2 million Americans age 12 or older abused or were addicted to opioids in 2013, the CDC estimates.
a. The White House Office on National Drug Control Policy reported that nearly one third of people who used an illegal drug for the first time began by misusing prescriptions.
b. Seven out of 10 people who misused prescriptions got them from a friend or relative. One in five got them from a doctor. Only 5 percent bought them from a drug dealer or stranger, according to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
c. Officials are particularly concerned about the link between painkillers and heroin. However, only 4 percent of people who misuse prescriptions move to heroin, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
U.S. Attorney Kenyen R. Brown used the standard adulteration of the Controlled Substance Act used by the government today to target doctors, that
“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,” and “We will remain vigilant in prosecuting doctors who place greed over their Hippocratic Oath to help their patients and are otherwise willing to defraud and undermine the health care programs of the nation,”
When in reality it is the U.S. Attorney’s offices, the DEA and other government agencies that are really willing to defraud and undermine the health care of the citizens of the nation for money. Closing medical offices treating legitimate pain, especially at the numbers quoted here just throws more people onto the street trying to self-treat their pain. This leads to more deaths and more addiction. And you have permission to quote me on that.
Baton Rouge Police said a ring of 26 people were accused of stealing physicians’ information and using it to make fake prescriptions. The drugs obtained through those forgeries were then distributed throughout the Baton Rouge area. Police said the ringleader, Luvada Poindexter of Central, got hold of more than $700,000 worth of drugs this way, and is still at large.
Now that is drug pushing and should be charged. But doctors seeing patients in their offices should be protected by the exemption stated and intended by the legislature when the CSA was made law in 1970.
Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama, himself a physician, described the doctors suspected in the raids as “an embarrassment to the medical profession.” He said “When they choose to overprescribe narcotics to patients, and they know that these patients may be or are abusing them, then they change from being a physician to really being a drug dealer.”
Shame on you, Gov. Bentley. That statement shows where you hang your hat—on the money rather than on patient care. Maybe Alabama citizens hit by the state’s failure to treat legitimate pain should elect another governor.
In Arkansas, federal prosecutor Christopher Thyer described one sting in which undercover officers paid $200 to get prescription drugs from a clinic without ever being examined.
Now that is probably a bit of misinformation. More than likely this was not the first visit for this person/patient. And once the cause of pain is determined, a physical exam is not really necessary to continue medication. Using the VAS scale for pain and activity with and without meds is enough to justify the prescription.
So now, one year after Operation Pilluted, how did it affect the people living with pain in these states? If you have been affected, please leave a comment.