As the opioid crisis continues to affect New Orleans and other areas in Louisiana, many people wonder when law enforcement will hold pharmaceutical companies and doctors accountable for the role they play. Instead, the federal government and local law enforcement seem more focused on arresting the people participating in the illicit drug trade.
Even so, CNBC reports that 60 medical professionals in five states now face charges related to illegally prescribing medication to patients. In total, seven pharmacists, eight nurses, 31 doctors and seven other medical practitioners face charges related to 350,000 prescriptions. Some of the cases involve handing out medication to Facebook friends, while others involved exchanging the meds for sexual favors. The drugs prescribed included opioid painkillers.
A 2017 article by CNN shows that this is not the first attempt officials made to hold doctors accountable. Some doctors have also faced murder charges in relation to overdoses caused by opioid painkillers. The first doctor held accountable for overprescribing painkillers received a sentence of 30 years to life in prison in 2015. Later, another doctor in Texas faced charges after his illegal distribution resulted in seven deaths.
Experts blame the current epidemic on the aggressive marketing of opioids as a “wonder drug” painkiller in the 80s and 90s. At that time, pharmaceutical companies did not always explicitly explain what the side effects were and often convinced doctors that there was only a low risk of addiction.
Over the past few decades, however, doctors and other medical professionals witnessed the effects of the opioid crisis firsthand. Thus, what may have started with the pharmaceutical companies gained momentum through the professionals it reportedly concealed important facts from.