NEW ORLEANS, LA (WLOX) - Local and state authorities across the Deep South have been working closely with the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal agencies over the past 15 months to stem the flow of prescription medications flooding the streets.
Officials with the DEA New Orleans Field Division said the extensive investigation, dubbed Operation Pilluted, led to the arrest of 22 doctors and pharmacists and 280 other individuals across Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Agents executed 21 search warrants across the four states during the course of the investigation. Those warrants led to the seizure of 51 vehicles, 202 weapons and $404,828 in cash. Agents also executed 73 seizure warrants that netted more than $11 million in currency and $6.7 million in real property.
According to the DEA, 43,982 people died in the U.S. in 2013 from unintentional drug overdose. That equals about one overdose death every 13 minutes. Authorities say 52 percent of those deaths were attributed to prescription drugs.
In an attempt to stop these devastating numbers, authorities took aim at the medical professionals prescribing, obtaining and distributing these dangerous substances such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and Xanax.
"The doctors and pharmacists arrested in Operation Pilluted are nothing more than drug traffickers who prey on the addiction of others while abandoning the Hippocratic Oath adhered to faithfully by thousands of doctors and pharmacists each day across this country," said DEA Special Agent in-Charge Keith Brown.
In addition to the arrest of 22 doctors and pharmacists, the DEA also issued two immediate suspension orders and obtained the voluntary surrender for cause of an additional 40 DEA registrants. Agents are still pursuing administrative action that could lead to the revocation of additional DEA registrations.
"DEA is committed to reducing the destruction brought on by the trafficking and abuse of prescription drugs through aggressive criminal enforcement, robust administrative oversight and strong relationships with other law enforcement agencies, the public and the medical community," said Brown.