Just after sunrise in Cookeville, Tennessee, federal, state and local agents prepared for the largest opioid takedown of medical providers in the country. Dozens of people were arrested in seven states after prescribing 32 million pills.
"If you overprescribe, if you steal from a taxpayer, you're going to go to jail," said Special Agent Derrick Jackson.
Wednesday's operation stretched across states among the hardest hit in the opioid crisis. In all, they indicted 60 individuals including doctors, nurses and pharmacists. In one case, a Tennessee doctor known as "the rock doc" who piloted a reality TV show about his clinic, allegedly prescribed dangerous combinations of opioids in exchange for sexual favors.
Agent Jackson drove CBS News through Clay County and Cookeville, a small town with fewer than 8,000 residents. But it's also home to three pharmacies on the same block. Two of them prescribed more than 1 and a half million opioid pills.
Dozens indicted Wednesday are also charged with billing Medicare and Medicaid for unnecessary prescriptions.
"I would classify it as federally funded drug dealing yes, because these are federal programs that are paying for the drugs," Jackson said.
The pharmacists who worked at those pharmacies was among those indicted. Agents said over three years, one pharmacy prescribed enough opioids per day for every man woman and child in Clay County.
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