“Operation Pilluted” Largest DEA Prescription Drug Operation Ever

by Alan Rook
PharmD, Clinical Pharmacist

The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) and federal prosecutors have announced the conclusion of a 15-month operation dubbed “Operation Pilluted.” The operation was an unprecedented law enforcement effort to reverse the effects of the trafficking and abuse of pharmaceuticals, and the operation resulted in the arrest of 280 people, including 22 doctors and pharmacists across four states: Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

The DEA stated that the operation was led by their New Orleans Field Division and “utilized intelligence data, information provided by state and local law enforcement, and complaints made by citizens, to identify the DEA Registrants and others prescribing, obtaining, and distributing dangerous and addictive controlled substances such as Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and Xanax.”

“DEA is committed to reducing the destruction brought on by the trafficking and abuse of prescription drugs through aggressive criminal enforcement, robust administrative oversight, and strong relationships with other law enforcement agencies, the public, and the medical community,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Brown. “The doctors and pharmacists arrested in Operation Pilluted are nothing more than drug traffickers who prey on the addiction of others while abandoning the Hippocratic Oath adhered to faithfully by thousands of doctors and pharmacists each day across this country.”

According to the DEA website, in addition to the arrests, the DEA took action to “remove or restrict the ability of the targeted DEA Registrants to prescribe or dispense controlled substances” and “issued 2 Immediate Suspension Orders and obtained the voluntary surrender for cause of an additional 40 DEA Registrations. DEA is pursuing Administrative Actions which may result in the revocation of additional DEA Registrations.” Operation Pilluted included participation from state and local law enforcement, as well as DEA, FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), FDA (Food and Drug Administration) IRS (Internal Revenue Service), DHS (Department of Homeland Security), ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), U.S. Marshals Service, and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

This is great news for the four states where this took place—and it is a very positive sign to see the federal government working with state and local agencies to target pain clinics or “pill mills” and individuals involved with prescription forgery, doctor shopping, and pharmacy burglary and theft. Let’s hope this well-coordinated law enforcement action will cause those organizations and individuals in other states to take notice and deter them from illegal pharmaceutical trafficking activities.