As Authorities Investigate an East Tennessee Doctor We Ask - Who Is Policing Big Pharma?


COCKE COUNTY, Tenn. — We've heard from many of you with questions after our report on Scott County Doctor Bruce Coffey.

Dr. Coffey is under federal investigation after a DEA undercover operations exposed questionable practices, like pre-signing prescriptions for narcotic pain pills and spending less than a minute examining patients.

One question we've heard a lot - what responsibility do the pill makers have in all this?

Doctor Coffey prescribed nearly 5 million pain pills....and there are some indications pharmaceutical distributors knew about it.

When we asked Scott County District Attorney General Jared Effler, he pointed out he's already suing big pharma.

"We stand determined to hold them responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic," Effler said.

His case is pending and could be argued in front of the Supreme Court.

Doctors are monitored in part by the medical examiners board. A board member told me sometimes the state just doesn't know about it. Dr. Reeves Johnson is on the Board of Medical only investigate if they get a complaint.

Doctor Coffey prescribed enough pills for every person in McCreary Co., KY to have 15 addictive pills over an eight-year period

WBIR photo illustration

"We can't be out there in doctors offices looking over shoulders so we totally rely on other people. Now there's other information that may come up - like in for instance a case where there's a federal investigation going on that we didn't know about because they wanted it that way. But we find out about it than we pursue an investigation.

Finally, some of you ask, just how many doctor overprescribing cases they see?

Reeves they get about 6 to 10 every year.

Doctor Coffey has not been charged in his federal case and so far no disciplinary action either.

Coffey's lawyers did not get back to our request for comment.

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