State, federal officials raid metro pill mills

by: Linda Stouffer Updated:

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga.,None - State officials say raids in seven counties Tuesday add up to the largest operation yet to crack down on pill mills and prescription painkiller abuse in Georgia.

Doctors, clinic owners and pharmacists were arrested in the sting. Authorities said they are connected to the illegal distribution of oxycodone.

All of those arrested were charged under Georgia's RICO law in DeKalb County.

"They are drug dealers; what do drug dealers do? They profit off of the addictions of other people," DeKalb District Attorney Robert James said.

Channel 2's Linda Stouffer was with federal and state agents as they raided the Atlanta Counseling and Recovery Center on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs.

Officers brought out boxes of evidence, some marked as patient files. Investigators started looking into this case after complaints about a pain clinic in Chamblee.

James said patients would get high-dose prescriptions, some higher than cancer patients, and then have them filled at certain cooperating pharmacies. Officers said customers always paid cash, and the clinic owners made millions.

"They are issuing prescriptions for no legitimate medical need. Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, basically all coming down here to get the narcotic prescriptions. It's nothing more than a drug distribution house," Jimmy Martinez with the Drug Enforcement Administration told Stouffer.

"Absolutely, no bones about it, Georgia is the epicenter of the pill mills, pain clinic issue," the DEA's John Comer said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said prescription painkillers now kill more people in the U.S. than cocaine and heroin combined.

Deaths attributed to prescription drug abuse are also on the rise in Georgia.

One doctor walked away without arrest after he voluntarily surrendered his DEA drug license.

Dr. Edward Walker told Stouffer it was his first day.

"I knew it was a pain clinic, but I had no idea it was a pill mill," Walker said.

Stouffer asked him if he believes it now.

"Yes, I do now," Walker said.