June 27, 2017

Okla. doc charged with second-degree murder over opioid overprescribing

Daily Briefing

    Oklahoma's attorney general has filed second-degree murder charges against a physician who prescribed high amounts of painkillers to five patients.

    The charges come as public attorneys increasingly look to hold individuals in the opioid supply chain responsible for opioid drug-related overdoses.

    Details of the charges

    Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter (R) has charged Regan Nichols, an osteopathic physician, with five counts of second-degree murder. Hunter said Nichols "knowingly prescribed controlled dangerous substances" with an "extreme disregard for human life."

    Specifically, Hunter's office claims that Nichols prescribed a total of 1,800 painkillers to five of her patients from 2010 to 2013. Those patients died from a drug-related overdose within one month of filling their prescriptions, according to court documents. One of the patients died the same day she visited Nichols' pain management clinic in Midwest City, News 9 reports. Further, the court documents allege that investigators who reviewed the patients' files found no medical basis for the prescriptions.

    According to court documents, Oklahoma's Bureau of Narcotics had found that Nichols from January 2010 through October 2014 had prescribed a total of three million units of controlled substances to her patients to treat pain, and frequently prescribed opioids that can be dangerous when taken together. The state's Board of Osteopathic Examiners took away Nichols' ability to prescribe controlled substances in September 2015.

    Nichols could face additional charges related to patients who died while under her treatment. Nichols was arrested for the charges and is out on bail. Her medical license still was active as of June 24.

    Nichols could not be reached for comment Saturday and a phone number for her pain management clinic had been disconnected, the Washington Post's "To Your Health" reports (Manchester, The Hill, 6/25; Howell, Washington Times, 6/23; Mitchell, News 9, 6/24; Wootson, "To Your Health," Washington Post, 6/24).

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