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A Virginia doctor could face life in prison at his sentencing next week, and for the prescribing of one-half million doses of opioids to patients over a period of two years.
Joel Smithers, a 36-year-old father of five, was arrested at his south-Virginia practice-by 2017.
In May, he was found guilty on more than 800 counts of illegally prescribing drugs, including oxycodone and oxymorphone, death of a West Virginia woman.
Smithers’ mandatory minimum sentence is 20 years old.
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Officials said Smith was part of an interstate drug distribution ring in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia.
“I went and got the medication for it without — I mean without any kind of physical exam or medical records, no nothing like that,” one woman said that she became addicted after getting the pills from Smithers, testified before the district court.
His office was described in court as she had no medical supplies and the patients who slept outside and urinated in the parking lot.
“People just went in there for a reason, and that was just to get the pain medication that they can abuse or sell on for a profit,” Christopher Dziedzic, a supervisory special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, who have supervised the research of Smithers, said.
“He has done so much damage and helped to remove the overall problem in the centre of the opioid crisis,” he added.
Smithers does not accept insurance and and more more more than $700,000 from his patients in the last two years.
In the process, he said that when he moved to Virginia, he was overwhelmed with the patients coming from other member states, who are said to have their pain clinics had been shut down.
He testified that he reluctantly dealt with it and said that if he had not been able to examine them, he spoke to them on the phone.
He told me that he had been deceived by some of his patients.
“I’ve learned several lessons the hard way about trusting people I should not trust you,” he said.
Once there, Smithers has failed to put a patient in a Starbucks parking lot, and for $300 he gave her a prescription for fentanyl, a painkiller up to 100 times more potent than morphine, ” he said.
Smithers worked out of the small town of Martinsville, which is the nation’s third-highest number of opioid pills per head of population, between 2006 and 2012.
He has had symptoms in his early practice in West Virginia, but by the time the authorities came into his office with a subpoena, it has been found in a container filled with shredded documents, and are not tested in urine samples.
Smithers is scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday.
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Opioid drugs have killed about 400,000 people in the last 20 years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.