After a Houston clinic owner and physician went to prison for writing thousands of fraudulent prescriptions for opioid painkillers and other prescription drugs, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents shared with the press some of the clinic’s inner workings to demonstrate how insidious the opioid epidemic has become.
Houston’s KPRC-TV featured the case of Gulfton Community Health Center, which ran an illegal opioid distribution operation that dispensed about 34,000 illegal prescriptions (about 2.1 million units of hydrocodone alone) to opioid addicts and dealers.
DEA agent Wendell Campbell told KPRC that agents usually saw lines of 30-40 people at the doors of the clinic in addition to a packed waiting room. Customers sometimes waited as long as four hours to get a prescription for opioids or muscle relaxers filled, he said.
Before being shuttered by the government, the Center employed armed security guard to checks IDs, posted multiple signs forbidding customers to bring electronics of any kind, purses, and backpacks into the exam rooms, and accepted cash only for payments.
As clampdowns on opioid drugs progressed, the clinic instituted a policy of serving only those who had been prescribed opioids in the past.
The “exams” typically lasted less than a minute, DEA agents said, and nearly every person received a written prescription for 100 hydrocodone pills or 70-90 muscle relaxer pills. As many as 50,000 of the illicitly prescribed pills would be sold on the street for $10 each.
The DEA said the clinic was an example of “the damage one person can do.”
According to KPRC, the clinic’s owner, Shane Faithful, and the doctor writing prescriptions, Dr. Gazelle Craig, were convicted in March on one count of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute controlled substances and three counts of unlawfully distributing and dispensing controlled substances. Both were sentenced to 35 years in federal prison last month.