Two More Doctors Arrested as This Dangerous Drug Keeps Making Its Way Across America
There’s an underground health crisis sweeping through America, and it’s coming right from the medical system itself. Fentanyl came into public awareness last year, most notably when singer Prince died from an overdose on the drug. (Note: Although officials have confirmed it was fentanyl the legendary musician died from, it’s unknown whether they were illegally produced or if he even knew the prescribed drugs he was taking contained the lethal cocktail).
Fentanyl was first created in the 60s and introduced into the pharmaceutical market as an anesthetic. Sold under brand names like Sublimaze and Actiq, the drug is a powerful opioid which produces similar bodily effects as morphine, but is 50 to 100 times more potent. As such, fentanyl is often administered to help with severe pain from cancer or as a post-op remedy. To be treated medically, it is most commonly administered to patients via injection, patch, or in lozenges.
But there’s another side to fentanyl – a side that’s grabbing the attention of national pharmaceutical regulation boards like the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NITA) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And if you’re in the Health & Wellness industry, it’s likely you want to know about it as well.
Fentanyl is being illegally used as a recreational drug. “Like heroin, morphine, and other opioid drugs, fentanyl works by binding to the body’s opioid receptors, which are found in areas of the brain that control pain and emotions,” writes NIDA on their website. “They can drive up dopamine levels in the brain’s reward areas, producing a state of euphoria and relaxation.” Those who choose to take the drug illegally generally consume it as a powder, mixed with heroin, swallowed or snorted.
Last November, a Detroit physician plead guilty to charges of supplying patients prescription drugs that contain fentanyl without legitimate diagnosis – and reaping the rewards in the form of kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies. Strangely, it was reported he spent his extra pocket-money on over $9 million on baseball cards and other rare collectible items.
And now, two more doctors are being accused of similar behavior. Drs. John Couch and Xiulu Ruan allegedly ran an opioid ‘pill mill’ – the term used for doctors who illegitimately prescribe patients drugs – in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Nationally, the number of fentanyl submissions and synthetic opioid deaths increased by 426% and 79%, respectively, during 2013–2014,” says an in-depth study conducted by the CDC. “The Secretary of Health and Human Services has launched an initiative to reduce opioid misuse, abuse, and overdose,” the paper continues. “[We are] planning rapid response in high-burden states and states beginning to experience increases in fentanyl submissions or deaths.”
Both Couch and Ruan were arrested in 2015 after prescribing nearly $5 million in unwarranted Subsys, a mouth spray containing high levels of fentanyl whose purpose is to ease cancer patients’ chronic pain.
Both have plead not guilty to the charges.