|Dr. Regan Nichols|
In three of the five deaths, the prescriptions were a lethal mix of opiod painkillers, benzodiazepine anti-anxiety drugs, and muscle relaxants: the addict's so-called "holy trinity." Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter says that Nichols, a pain management doctor at the Sunshine Medical Center, prescribed patients "a horrifyingly excessive amount of opioid medications."
One patient died six days after being prescribed 450 doses of pills; another died one month after being prescribed 240 doses. Investigators allege that Nichols prescribed more than 1,800 medically unnecessary pills and, in at least one case, did not properly examine her patient before providing the prescription.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that opioids killed more than 33,000 Americans in 2015, with almost half of those deaths involving a prescription medication. Middle-aged rural white women represent a disproportionate number of those deaths, climbing 400 percent between 1999 and 2014.
The charges against Nichols are part of a growing trend of doctors being held responsible for overdoses. According to The Los Angeles Times, LA doctor Hsiu-Ying "Lisa" Teng was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2015 and sentenced to at least 30 years in prison in 2016 for the overdose deaths of three of her patients. In April, a doctor practicing in Tompkinsville, Kentucky, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for illegally prescribing painkillers to five people, resulting in the deaths of three patients. Another doctor in Albany, Ky., was also indicted in April for irresponsibly prescribing painkillers that resulted in an additional three deaths.