ARKANSAS (KNWA) — An Arkansas doctor is facing federal charges after he reportedly prescribed dangerous opioids and pills without a medical purpose.
Western District Attorney Duane “DAK” Kees and Assistant Special Agent Justin King said in a news conference Dr. Lonnie Joseph Parker, of Texarkana, was arrested Tuesday, Oct. 8, and a federal grand jury has indicted him on nine federal charges of prescribing without a legitimate medical purpose outside the scope of professional practice.
“I hope this is a wake-up call and trust me when I say there will be many more wake up calls to come,” Kees said.
According to federal law, drug distribution has a penalty of three years to life in prison. Sentences are longer when larger quantities of drugs are involved.
Investigators began an investigation of Parker after receiving several complaints from law enforcement officials about a suspected pill mill. It was reported that a patient possibly died of a drug overdose, according to Kees.
Prescription drug data collected for two years was attributed to Parker. Parker is reportedly found to have over-prescribed controlled substances including opiates, benzodiazepines, and promethazine with codeine cough syrup to patients in and near Texarkana.
The analyzed data shows Parker prescribed more than 1 million dosage units of opiates, including oxycodone and hydrocodone, to 1,508 patients.
“What makes the opioid epidemic so dangerous are two things: most addicts start out with getting prescribed these legitimately and get addicted to them that way. Second… there is no one characteristic of someone who is addicted to opioids. They can be your children, adults or your grandparents. It can be anybody and that is what makes it so dangerous,” Kees explained. “It’s killing Arkansans and we have to get a handle on it.”
Kees explained, “This is how we are going to get a handle on it… we’re going after the people profiting off this. We’re going after the doctors… it’s the only way. I understand that it may not be looked upon well for a doctor to come to the feds and tell us about a peer of theirs who is over-prescribing, but they’re going to have to. They are going to have to. We need this information and we are going to stop them. It affects us all and I am tired of it.”
Investigators also found that within two years, Parker prescribed about 16 gallons of promethazine with codeine cough syrup to 29 patients.
” I want to say to those people profiting from this epidemic… no matter if they’re a doctor, a pharmacist, a pharmaceutical company… it is a new day in the Western District of Arkansas. This conduct will not be tolerated. We will use the full effect and force of this office to come after you, and we will get you,” Kees said.
Kees said it is possible that Parker was doing this longer than two years, but said they think they have enough evidence to bring the nine charges against Parker.
Investigators with the FBI, United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Gardner, Drug Enforcement Administration- Little Rock District Office, Tactical Diversion, Texarkana Police Department assisted in this case.
This is an ongoing investigation.