Georgia doctor indicted in Garden City pill mill operation - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Georgia doctor indicted in Garden City pill mill operation

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Six people, including a Georgia doctor, were indicted Tuesday on charges they operated a pill mill in Garden City.

The U.S. Attorney's Office alleges the group opened a pain clinic called the East Health Center in February 2011, and began unlawfully prescribing more than four million milligrams of oxycodone without any legitimate medical purpose.

Five people from Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, along with Dr. Najam Azmat of Waycross, Georgia, are accused of conspiring to traffic oxycodone, hydrocodone, and other drugs using these clinics, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, "under the guise of a stethoscope and a white coat, and they prey upon their so-called patients."

Jim Durham, First Assistant U.S. Attorney, told WTOC these kinds of alleged pill mills began popping up in Georgia after Florida changed their laws to prevent anyone but a licensed physician in their state to own a pain clinic. 

Business owners in the Fortune Plaza remember the day two years ago when federal, state and local law enforcement swarmed the pain clinic at the end of the strip mall. They didn't suspect anything illegal, but say they noticed a lot of people hanging around outside.

Those people were possibly patients from as far away as Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida and South Carolina. Close to 300 prescriptions were written from February to May of 2011 for patients in those four states alone.

The clinic was raided an shut down four months after opening.

Right now, anyone can rent a space in a strip mall or shopping plaza in Georgia, for example. If they find a doctor with a DEA license who can start writing prescriptions for pain pills, they can begin operating a pain clinic.

It becomes a pill mill when those prescriptions prove to have no legitimate medical purpose.

The Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill last week which would tighten restrictions on who owns a pain clinic. Georgia allows convicted felons to own pain clinics. The bill would prevent this and require all future clinics be owned by physicians licensed in this state.

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