How bad is the underground drug market? Well, twenty-five people, including doctors, were charged with involvement in a massive scheme that flooded New York City’s black market with as much as $500 million in painkillers. Think about that, $500 million. That means there is great demand for controlled prescription drugs. So why worry about the illegal drugs when we have trouble controlling legal prescription drugs.
The operation was based at a clinic (pill mill) operating under the name Astramed in the New York city’s Bronx district. The clinic sold phony prescriptions to drug dealers, who bought 5.5 million oxycodone pills at pharmacies around the city, along the eastern seaboard and as far away as Florida. They in turn sold it to addicts on the black market at a premium. Keep in mind, that these prescription drugs are controlled. Who needs Columbia when you have the Bronx.
Astramed’s owner collected nearly $12 million in the past three years for phony prescriptions. Doctors at Astramed wrote more than 31,500 prescriptions for oxycodone to high-level drug traffickers, who paid the clinic’s employees up to $300 for each phony patient’s appointment.
So patient X visits the doctor and tells him he was sent by dealer A. The doctor would write the prescription for oxycodone for patient X who would fill it at your local pharmacy and then sell it at the local corner. One doctor wrote eight oxycodone prescriptions for undercover officers during the investigation. He conducted no physical examination, and would prescribe oxycodone no matter what response the officers gave to his questions. If the doctors tried to stop it, the drug traffickers would intimidate the doctors for not writing more prescriptions per day for patients sent in by them.
On weekday mornings, as many as 100 people would crowd the doors of Astramed’s main location, clamoring to see doctors who would prescribe large quantities of the powerful narcotic painkiller in exchange for cash. This was a prescription drug all you can eat buffet. The crowds grew so big that the clinic stationed private security guards outside to control the situation. The funny thing is Astramed describes itself on its website as a primary care clinic offering services ranging from sonograms to weight management. The truth was, it was a pain management clinic for dealers.
Do you have a Pill Mill in your neighborhood?