The opioid epidemic in the United States has ravaged several parts of the nation, but perhaps nowhere has been hit harder than the Midwest.
A CDC report shows a disturbing trend in the region — a stripe down the middle of the country indicating the highest ratio of opioid prescriptions. And, while there are a number of companies being blamed for the epidemic, we’re also witnessing doctors prescribing dangerously high doses of painkillers.
On Friday, police in Oklahoma arrested Dr. Regan Nichols and charged her with second-degree murder. In 2012, Nichol’s patient Sheila Bartels turned up dead after overdosing on painkillers. The Washington Post reported that on the day that Bartels was discovered, she had recently filled a prescription for 510 pills.
Investigators declared that Nichols “either didn’t know or didn’t care what she was doing.”
In fact, Nichols is charged with five counts of second-degree murder. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter told the Associated Press that “Nichols prescribed patients, who entrusted their well-being to her, a horrifyingly excessive amount of opioid medications,” and adding that “[her] blatant disregard for the lives of her patients is unconscionable.”
Oklahoma has been particularly hit hard by the opioid epidemic. In an attempt to stave off the deaths, police are going after everyone responsible. In April, the Cherokee nation in the state leveled lawsuits against a group of pharmaceutical giants who they claim have flooded their state with painkillers.
Police in New York arrested a doctor on Thursday who they believe ran a “pill mill,” pushing out somewhere around $40 million in painkillers.
And Nichols has a history of prescribing outlandishly high amounts of painkillers, muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety drugs — the so-called “holy trinity” that if misused could lead to deadly results. The AP reported that she “prescribed more than 3 million doses of controlled dangerous drugs from 2010-2014,” and in 2010, “prescribed one 47-year-old patient a total of 450 pills.” She was released from prison at $50,000 bail.