Thumbs down: Case shows host of pill-mill problems
Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky have all been hard hit by prescription drug abuse, and each state has taken steps to better track prescription sales and reduce the flow of pain pills into the black market.
It is too early to tell how well the new procedures are working, but a case in Ohio federal court this week shows how dangerous these "pain clinics" can be and how much the stronger enforcement is needed.
Nancy and Lester Sadler were sentenced this week for their convictions in connection with the Ohio Medical and Pain Management, which they co-owned in Waverly, Ohio. They were indicted in 2010 for illegally selling thousands of prescriptions in and around southern Ohio, and investigators maintain the clinic aggressively marketed to those customers.
Among the alarming allegations from the investigation:
Nancy Sadler had a previous pill-mill conviction in Kentucky that should have prevented her from operating a clinic in Ohio.
Clinic employees received financial incentives to book appointments to fill 30 to 40 prescriptions of painkillers a day at $125 a visit.
Some customers traveled more than 200 miles round trip to visit the clinic.
Clinic operators and employees used the federal prescription-writing authorization of the clinic's physician to order more than 200,000 painkillers. The Sadlers kept some of those pills to resell to local drug dealers, the indictment said.
While it is encouraging to see the convictions, it is frightening that the clinic was operating on that scale for so long without detection. It also shows the importance of authorities watching the sheer volume of pain-pill prescriptions and where they are going.