Tennessee doctor pleads guilty to over prescribing opioids

Health

FILE – This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of prescription oxycodone pills in New York. U.S. health officials are again warning doctors against abandoning chronic pain patients by abruptly stopping their opioid prescriptions. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services instead urged doctors Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, to share such decisions with patients. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

COLUMBIA, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee doctor who lost five patients to fatal overdoses in 10 months now faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

News outlets report 64-year-old Dr. Darrel Rinehart pleaded guilty Monday to prescribing drugs without medical necessity.

U.S. Attorney Don Cochran says Rinehart also admitted to unreasonably distributing opioids and other substances to multiple patients. Health records indicate at least five of Rinehart’s patients fatally overdosed either partially or wholly because of drugs he prescribed in 2014 and 2015. He later moved to Indiana.

Rinehart was one of 32 Tennessee medical professionals charged with crimes related to over-prescribing opioids. He was indicted in March on 19 counts of distribution. His sentencing is scheduled for July 30.

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