A new report exposes illicit medical practices that make money prescribing painkillers in New Jersey. The investigation started as a way to better understand high rates of prescription drug addiction, which, in many cases, leads to heroin addiction.

 

The State Commission of Investigation, an independent fact-finding agency, spent two years tracking down where users get these highly addictive substances.

Chadd Lackey, the project's team leader, says investigators found many different types of pill-mill operations.

"There was a local cop, and he was driving by a what looked like an abandoned building, and he saw all these people who he recognized as drug abusers," Lackey said. "And, lo and behold, they were standing in line for a chiropractic place."

Some medical practices hired bouncers and operated more like drug corners, while other practices used vans to bus homeless Medicaid recipients to a clinic, Lackey said.

The report sheds light on bigger operations profiting from prescribing these drugs, he said.

"Not only did we want to understand what was going on with the prescribers, we wanted to look behind the prescribers to see if there were people making money from this illicit trade and, of course, we did find that," he said. Lackey says some of the operations have ties to organized crime, making millions of dollars.

The report's findings have been submitted to New Jersey prosecutors, and also to government agencies, to inform potential system reforms and policy changes to stop these practices. The report could lead to stronger oversight of the medical community, especially in the area of prescription standards for physicians.

It could also lead to the establishment of a multiagency, statewide task force to conduct more investigations into prescription drugs.