Gov. Robert Bentley has made remarks about an epidemic of unscrupulous doctors intentionally over-prescribing powerfully addictive painkillers across the South, recently highlighted by a massive series of Drug Enforcement Agency busts known as “Operation Pillution.”
Bentley, who is a dermatological physician by trade, indicated on Wednesday in a Montgomery news conference that the dozens of “pill mill” doctors and pharmacists caught by the DEA’s dragnet are “an embarrassment to the medical profession.”
Gesturing to his personal prescription pad that allows him issue scrips for hydrocodone, OxyContin and other often-abused painkillers, Bentley said that when doctors break their Hippocratic oath to “do no harm” by writing prescriptions to addicts, they “change from being a physician to really being a drug dealer.”
Nine people were arrested in Alabama on charges related to the federal sting, including two doctors.
According to the DEA, 40 doctors overall were forced to give up their licenses, along with more than 228 arrests stemming from the latest stage of the year-old initiative launched last summer, which runs from Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Agents arrested 48 people altogether on Wednesday. Twenty-two were from Louisiana, nine each in Alabama and Arkansas, and eight in Mississippi.
Word of the operation came amid somewhat better news in the national war against prescription drug abuse: Deaths from pharmaceutical overdoses are down in after a 10-year ascendance, leveling off after a steep decline in 2012.