Authorities bust 'pill mill' at Cartersville pain clinic
by Jessica Loeding
Jun 08, 2011 | 14173 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Atlanta Medical Group was the scene of a “pill mill” raid Tuesday morning at 16 Collins Drive in Cartersville.
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
The Atlanta Medical Group was the scene of a “pill mill” raid Tuesday morning at 16 Collins Drive in Cartersville. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Authorities from local, state and federal agencies Tuesday morning busted a "pill mill" at Atlanta Medical Group.

The raid, which occurred about 9 a.m., was the result of a yearlong investigation, according to Cartersville Police Chief Tommy Culpepper.

Agents from the Cartersville-Bartow County Drug Task Force, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration and possibly others were involved in the execution of warrants at the building at 16 Collins Drive, Culpepper said.

Sheriff Clark Millsap declined to comment on the crackdown.

All inquiries from the media were directed to the U.S. Attorney's Office. U.S. Attorney's Office Public Affairs Officer Patrick Crosby said about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday that he could provide no information confirming or denying the incident and who was handling the matter.

Culpepper said the case will be handled by the U.S. Attorney's Office because it "extends beyond the border of Cartersville and Bartow County."

While no information on the number of arrests made, charges filed or names was provided, an official who asked not to be named, said the estimate on arrests was about 11.

A search of the Georgia Secretary of State's website provided several results for a search of "Atlanta Medical Group," none with a Cartersville or Bartow County listing. The phone number listed on the business' Facebook page no longer was in service and the website could no longer be found.

The growing concern about the prescription drug trade already has hit home to Bartow County.

Earlier this year, Cartersville City Council passed a "pill mill" moratorium. The resolution would impose a one-year moratorium on any establishment that comes into the community. At the end of that year the city would evaluate the establishment.

Pill mills are businesses, staffing a legitimate doctor, that dispense prescription medication outside the realm of medical standards. Local officials have reported a majority of the visitors to such establishments come from out of state.

Millsap said prescription drug abuse has become a main concern for his department, which has seen an increase in activity the past few years.

"We're trying to get a handle on it," he said.

In May, a federal grand jury in Atlanta returned indictments in two cases charging a total of 13 defendants from Georgia and Kentucky with illegally trafficking in oxycodone and other prescription drugs. The two cases arise out of intensified efforts to address Georgia's growing problem with the abuse of prescription drugs.

The Georgia General Assembly passed legislation on April 19 approving a prescription drug monitoring program, which will allow law enforcement and the medical board to more effectively identify and prevent the diversion and misuse of oxycodone and other abused prescription drugs.

According to information on the U.S. Department of Justice website, abuse of prescription drugs is the fastest-growing segment for illegal drug use. More people abuse prescription drugs than the number of people who use cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin combined.

Millsap said prescription medication has become such a popular drug choice because it is easier -- and most times, legally -- obtained.

Increasingly, authorities are encountering forged or fake prescriptions. The sheriff said those addicted to prescription medications go to great lengths to obtain medications, including the falsified prescriptions and "doctor hopping."

Also, more and more patients are selling prescriptions medications, an issue Millsap called "one of the biggest problems" of prescription drug abuse. Typically, pills vary in price, sometimes going for as much as $20 per pill.

While Tuesday's bust is the first known case of a "pill mill" in Bartow County, the sheriff said his department treats any complaint as legitimate. Once the BCSO substantiates a claim, an undercover officer is sent in and a "full-blown investigation" ensues, according to Millsap.

The investigation linked to Tuesday's raid is ongoing and more arrests could follow.