Sixty People Charged in Massive Opioid Painkiller Investigation

Fifty-three medical professionals, including 31 doctors, are among the 60 people charged by U.S. authorities for their alleged involvement in the illegal prescribing and distribution of opioid painkillers.

They are linked to about 350,000 prescriptions and 32 million pills, and this is the largest ever takedown of illegal drug prescribers, according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman of Cincinnati, the Associated Press reported.

The doctors involved are "white coated drug dealers," said Robert Duncan, U.S. attorney for eastern Kentucky. In some cases, prescriptions were written in exchange for sex, investigators allege.

Arrests were being made and search warrants carried out as authorities announced the charges at a news conference, the AP reported.

The operation was conducted by the federal Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, which was launched last year.

There were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2017, according to federal health officials, the AP reported.

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