DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Seven doctors, four pharmacists and three home health care owners are among the 44 people indicted Wednesday in what prosecutors call a massive prescription drug pipeline between Ohio and Detroit.
Prosecutors said Detroit area doctors, phony patients and pharmacists were paid off to procure millions of painkillers that ended up on the streets.
The government said the scheme was rooted in southeast Michigan but stretched 250 miles southeast to Ohio, where many addictive painkillers were sold.
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said the defendants include seven doctors, four pharmacists and three owners of home health agencies.
Prosecutors said phony patients were paid for their Medicaid or Medicare information, which was used to order prescription drugs such as Oxycontin, Valium and Xanax.
The government or private insurers would then unwittingly pick up the tab.
McQuade said the pipeline bilked Medicare for about $20 million and fueled the “national epidemic” of drug abuse.
“More people are dying now from prescription drug overdose in American than are dying from gunshot wounds,” said McQuade.
The investigation began with a plea for help from the town of Portsmouth, Ohio, according to Police Chief Robert Ware.
“You will not find a single family in the Portsmouth area that has not been directly impacted as a result of losing a loved one to overdoses, having addiction themselves, of being a victim of a crime associated with that drug addiction,” said Ware.
McQuade said some of the pills ended up on the streets of metro Detroit, along with cities in Virginia and Kentucky.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)