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Tennessee Doctors, Nurses Snared in Crackdown


Indictments were revealed Wednesday against 32 Tennessee doctors, nurses and other medical professionals charged with crimes related opioids and over-prescribing, placing the Volunteer State at the epicenter of a crackdown designed to combat the opioid crisis throughout Appalachia.

Charges were filed against numerous suspects who allegedly prescribed addictive medications without justification, including Darrel Rinehart, a former Columbia doctor who had at least four patients die of overdoses in one year, and Jeff Young, a Jackson nurse practitioner accused of trading pills and fentanyl patches for sex.

Another suspect — a West Tennessee doctor who had not been publicly identified as of Wednesday afternoon — allegedly prescribed more than 4.2 million opioid pills.

Other defendants were employed with at least three pain clinic companies: LaFollette Wellness Center; Tennessee Valley Pain Specialists; and Pain MD, which is headquartered Brentwood but runs clinics in three states. Government officials have previously accused Pain MD of pressuring patients into unnecessary injections to inflate profits, and now three nurse practitioners are indicted on the same allegations.

All of these Tennessee prosecutions were announced Wednesday when the Department of Justice unveiled that 60 medical professionals in six states had been indicted in a sweeping investigation by the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force. The prosecutions were largely unrelated but generally focused on opioids, over-prescribing or health care fraud.

More than half of the defendants were charged in Tennessee.

In a news release, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Don Cochran commended investigators and prosecutors for “extraordinary efforts” to pursue these cases.

“The indictments announced today are the culmination of many months of meticulous investigation and another example of our commitment to hold those accountable who perpetuate the opioid crisis in our nation,” Cochran said.

“Our work is not done and we will continue our enforcement efforts without regard for who a person is or what position they may hold.”

In total, the Tennessee indictments brought charges against the follow suspects:

❚ Nine defendants charged in the Middle District of Tennessee, including four doctors, four nurse practitioners and a pharmacist.

❚ Eight defendants charged in the Eastern District of Tennessee, including five doctors, a nurse practitioner, a physician’s assistant and a pain clinic office manager.

❚ Fifteen defendants in the Western District of Tennessee, including eight doctors and several other medical professionals.

Other defendants were charged in Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Alabama and Pennsylvania. Across all states, the suspects included 31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurse practitioners and seven other licensed medical professionals, according to a Department of Justice news release.

“The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history, and Appalachia has suffered the consequences more than perhaps any other region,” said U.S. Attorney General William Barr in the release. “But the Department of Justice is doing its part to help end this crisis.”

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