Former Tennessee physician pleads guilty to illegal opioid prescribing over 3 years

Darrel Rinehart, MD, a former internal medicine physician who practiced in Columbia, Tenn., pleaded guilty Dec. 2 to one count of unlawful distribution of controlled substances, the Department of Justice announced.

As part of his guilty plea, Dr. Rinehart admitted to knowingly distributing hydrocodone to a patient who didn't have health issues justifying the prescription in January 2016.

He also admitted to illegally distributing opioids and other Schedule II controlled substances to four patients on 18 occasions between December 2014 and December 2015.

According to a 19-count indictment handed down in April, four patients died under Dr. Rinehart's care. Dr. Rinehart was indicted for distributing controlled substances "outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose."

Dr. Rinehart's medical license expired at the end of May. The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners suspended his license in November 2018, after he was caught on undercover video increasing a patient's opioid prescription without any examination, The Daily Herald reported.

Dr. Rinehart was charged as part of a federal crackdown on unlawful prescriptions of controlled substances. His sentencing is scheduled for July 30, 2020.

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