A psychiatrist from Tennessee was sentenced on Friday to 48 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for the unlawful distribution of opioids. Richard Farmer, 83, of Memphis, Tennessee, was found guilty by a jury on 21 February 2020, of three counts of distribution of controlled substances outside the scope of professional practice, and without a legitimate medical purpose.

"Opioid misuse and abuse is an insidious epidemic, created in large part by the over-prescribing and diversion of potent opioids. This sentence demonstrates our ability and resolve to aggressively prosecute and hold accountable any medical personnel who misuse their positions of trust to exploit the very people coming to them for help," said US Attorney D. Michael Dunavant, in a statement.

Drugs for Sex

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According to the evidence presented during the trial, Farmer had prescribed opioids to three sisters. He is said to have had an ongoing sexual relationship with them during the time of prescribing the medications. It was found that between July 2016 and January 2019, three sisters—who exhibited evident signs of addiction—were prescribed over 1,200 pills by Farmer.

It was also learnt that the psychiatrist had maintained nearly no patient files for the three women. Apart from the women, Farmer also wrote opioid prescriptions for the friends of these women. Again, he kept no files on them or conducted any medical examinations.

"Doctors who prey on those who suffer from the disease of addiction are no better than street-corner drug dealers," said Todd Scott, Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Louisville Division.

Positive Results for Strike Force

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Farmer was charged in an indictment in April 2019, which was a part of the first Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force Takedown. Also, his conviction was the first guilty trial for the strike force

"The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that physicians who abuse their power to promote and prolong drug addiction for their own benefit are punished accordingly," said Brian Rabbitt, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Criminal Division.