An Oklahoma doctor was charged Friday with second-degree murder in the overdose deaths of five patients from the powerful drugs and opioid painkillers she prescribed, sometimes in combination that made up an addict’s “holy trinity” of pills, according to state investigators.
Oklahoma’s attorney general announced Friday five second-degree murder charges against Regan Nichols, and an Oklahoma County judge also issued a warrant for her arrest. Nichols’ patients died while she worked at a Midwest City Clinic.
The doctor is among several who have been sent to prison or criminally charged in the overdose deaths of their patients; all in light of a crushing opioid epidemic across the country.
Nichols once prescribed 450 painkillers to a patient who overdosed six days later
Opioids -mostly painkillers and heroin- were responsible for the deaths of over 33,000 people across the United States in 2015. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid overdoses have more than quadrupled since 2000 in the U.S.
“Nichols prescribed patients, who entrusted their wellbeing to her, a horrifyingly excessive amount of opioid medication,” said Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter on Friday, according to The Washington Post. “Nichols’ blatant disregard for the lives of her patients is unconscionable.”
The Washington Post attempted to reach Nichols, an osteopathic physician, for comments, but they couldn’t get in contact with the doctor. It is unclear whether Nichols has hired an attorney yet. The doctor was affiliated with the physician group Spectra Family and the hospital AllianceHealth, both located in Midwest City, Oklahoma.
A state investigation discovered that the doctor prescribed more than 3 million doses of dangerous controlled drugs from 2010 through 2014. In 2010, Nichols prescribed a 47-year-old patient an astounding total of 450 painkillers, muscle relaxants, and anti-anxiety drugs, which are commonly known as addict’s “holy trinity,” one of the investigators wrote. That patient died six days after Nichols prescribed the deadly cocktail.
According to the investigators, in February 2012, Nichols prescribed another patient 240 painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs, despite the fact that she had not seen the 46-year-old patient for a full medical evaluation since 2008. The patient died in March that year. When one of the state investigators examined the dosage of narcotics the patient was taking by 2010, he noted in the affidavit, “Amazingly, this lady did not die until two years later.”
Affidavit claims Nichols prescribed addict’s ‘holy trinity’ of drugs to patients who didn’t need them
A probable cause affidavit claims that Nichols prescribed over 1,800 opioid drugs to the patients who died from overdoses, even though they didn’t have a medical need for the pills. Three of the five patients who died had been prescribed the deadly cocktail of painkillers, muscle relaxants, and anti-anxiety drugs.
“Our investigation has revealed that during a period of approximately five years, Dr. Nichols prescribed extremely large quantities of controlled substances in suspect combinations, including the most abused and sought after prescription drugs on the street, to numerous patients with very little medical examination or the establishment of a valid doctor-patient relationship and for no legitimate medical need,” stated the probable cause affidavit, according to KFOR News.
The affidavit also stated that during that same period, ten patients have died from overdoses of the very same drugs she was prescribing in massive doses. The Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that all five deaths were caused by multi-drug toxicity.
Doctors and pharmaceutical companies are being sued in an effort to slow down opioid epidemic
Data gathered by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics said that from Jan. 1, 2010 to Oct. 7, 2014, Nichols prescribed in excess over 3 million dosage units of controlled dangerous substances. Nichols was stripped of her ability to prescribe controlled dangerous substances.
“I appreciate the effort from everyone who worked as a team and put this case together,” said Hunter, according to KFOR News. “The dangers associated with opioid drugs have been well documented and most doctors follow strict guidelines when prescribing opioids to their patients.”
To combat the opioid epidemic, prosecutors have sued doctors for prescribing too many painkillers or drugs to patients who later died from overdoses. Last year, a Los Angeles-area doctor who was convicted of second-degree murder for prescribing painkillers that killed three patients, received a sentence of 30 years to life in prison for his actions.
Other states are also taking measures to fight the growing opioid epidemic –which is costing states overwhelming amounts of money- such as suing some pharmaceutical companies. On Wednesday, for example, Missouri’s attorney general sued three large pharmaceutical companies, claiming their “campaign of fraud and deception” led to a startling opioid crisis in the state.
Source: The Washington Post