Drug enforcement officials in Mississippi made it clear yesterday they plan to go after doctors and other practitioners who are enabling drug-addicted patients with their prescribing habits and contributing to the opioid epidemic.
The crackdown has already begun as officials said in a news conference that a monthlong investigation by state and federal drug agents resulted in charges against two nurse practitioners and the surrender by two doctors of their Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) licenses, according to USA Today. A pharmacy also faces civil actions.
Last year, 37 healthcare providers were arrested by state agents for pharmaceutical diversion, but opioid deaths continue, with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics (MBN) working a drug overdose case every other day on average in March—most opioid-related, said bureau director John Dowdy.
"Obviously they’re not getting the point, so prescribers in the state of Mississippi need to understand we’re serious about the opioid epidemic ...and we’re coming. You don’t want MBN and you don’t want DEA knocking at your door," he told USA Today.
Healthcare professionals in the state should consider themselves on notice that if overdose deaths are related to their prescribing habits, they will face charges, he said.
The ongoing opioid epidemic has already led doctors and hospital emergency departments to revisit their prescribing habits. At the federal level, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has made curbing the epidemic a top priority, including the need to raise awareness of new guidelines for prescribing opioids released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year.
Mississippi is not alone in its efforts to halt the deaths caused by the opioid epidemic. Agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement served a search warrant at a doctor’s office in Butler Beach Tuesday as part of an investigation into allegations he traded prescriptions for sexual acts, according to stauguistine.com. The search came the same day that the Florida Department of Health placed an emergency suspension on the doctor's license. The doctor has not been arrested or charged.