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As part of a federal indictment, following a four-month investigation, nine Middle Tennessee medical professionals were charged this morning for alleged involvement in illegal opioid prescription and distribution.

The arrests were made as part of the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, which began in December.

Attorney General William P. Barr said, “The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history, and Appalachia has suffered the consequences more than perhaps any other region.”

A release from the Justice Department indicates the charges involve “individuals contributing to the opioid epidemic, with a particular focus on medical professionals involved in the unlawful distribution of opioids and other prescription narcotics, a priority for the Department.”

The charges, against a total of 60 people, span six states and include 31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurse practitioners and seven other licensed medical professionals. Other states involved in the indictment include Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Alabama.

Indicted for prescribing a Schedule II controlled substance outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose were:

Dr. Darrell Rinehart (Columbia): on 19 counts, between December 4, 2014 and January 21, 2016. The indictment states four patients actively being seen by Rinehart died; the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners suspended Rinehart’s license November 27, 2018, until May 31, 2019, at which time his license will expire. He will be prohibited from renewing it or applying for a new license.

Dr. Bowdoin Smith (Carthage): on two counts, in January and February 2019. The indictment alleges in October 2012, Smith entered a consent order with the State of Tennessee Department of Health, Board of Osteopathic Examination, based on stipulated facts that Smith, among other things, prescribed controlled substances “not in the course of professional practice, or not in good faith to relieve pain and suffering, or not to cure an ailment, physical infirmity or disease,” and his treatment “routinely included prescribing narcotics and other medications and controlled substances in amounts and/or for durations not medically necessary, advisable, or justified for a diagnosed condition.” Smith’s medical license was placed on probation for a period of not less than three years, beginning October 11, 2012. The indictment states, “On November 4, 2015, the Board lifted the probation and Smith again began illegally prescribing highly addictive opioids, continuing through February 2019.”

Dr. Lawrence Valdez (Life Survival Health, Hendersonville): on 18 counts, between June 2016 and March 2017.”

Dr. Timothy Abbott (Podiatrist, Nashville): on seven counts, between January 2015 and January 2019.”

Heather Marks (Nurse Practitioner, Murfreesboro): on four counts, between December 2016 and February 2018.”

Indicted for three counts of healthcare fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud were:

Brian Richey, Daniel Seeley and Jonathan White (Nurse Practitioners, Pain MD Franklin): According to the indictment, Richey, Seeley and White were employed by MedManagement Inc., which managed Pain MD located in Franklin, Tennessee.”

Indicted for dispensing Schedule II and Schedule IV controlled substance, outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose was:

John Polston (Celina): on 21 counts, between April 27, 2017 and December 6, 2017. The indictment alleges Polston was the Pharmacist-in-Charge of Oakley Pharmacy, Inc. d/b/a Dale Hollow Pharmacy in Celina, Tennessee. On March 6, 2017, Polston entered into an agreement with the DEA that required compliance with federal, state and local laws pertaining to the dispensation of controlled substances. The indictment alleges that, until approximately February 2019, Polston repeatedly and consistently dispensed controlled substances, including highly addictive opioids, not for a legitimate medical purpose or in the usual course of professional practice. ”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 115 people die each  day from opioid-related overdoses in the U.S. alone.

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