State and federal agencies have banded together to form a special team to go after some of the people responsible for the devastating opioid epidemic across Oklahoma.
The newly-formed Western Oklahoma Opioid Enforcement Team is now treating over-prescribing doctors and pharmacists as federal drug traffickers.
This week, a grand jury indictment revealed hundreds of charges against Sayre-based Dr. Melvin Robison and his colleague Dr. Moheb Hallaba for over-prescribing opioids, at times while they were not even seeing the patients.
“The indictment also alleges that the criminal distribution of these drugs, by these defendants, resulted in the death of five patients,” acting US Attorney Robert Troester said.
Another grand jury indictment unsealed this week charges Wellston-based Dr. James Ferris and pharmacy owners Katherine Dossey and Sherry Isbell for running a prescription delivery service illegally, writing more than 1,000 prescriptions in the span of three months using pre-signed prescription pads.
“It is alleged that this process would be repeated to refill prescriptions every 30 days as a standing order without any specific prior direction by Dr. Farris, and without any request by the patient,” Troester said.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said he is elated to have the help from federal agencies, touting his lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, as well as the case against Midwest City-based Dr. Reagan Nichols, who was just bound over for trial in the deaths of five of her patients.
“Most physicians are doing exactly what they need to do for their patients, but this doctor was prescribing thousands of pills per month to patients without any legitimate medical need,” Hunter said.
There has also been an alarming increase in the discovery of fentanyl this year across the state, which is up to 100 times more deadly than other opioids.
“Thirty pounds of fentanyl was taken off the road. That’s enough fentanyl to kill every man, woman and child in the city of Oklahoma City,” OSBI director Rick Adams said.
That will be a focus of the enforcement team as well.
During the press conference on Thursday, OBN also announced that they would soon be launching a real-time tracker of overdoses in the state, so that they can more quickly investigate and prosecute those responsible.
OBN reports that 54 percent of Oklahomans who are addicted to opioids first get them from a relative or friend’s medicine cabinet.
The agency has 177 drug takeback boxes throughout the state where you can dispose of unwanted medication. To find one near you, click here.