Phony prescriptions, fake patients and nearly 2 million pain pills wound up on the street because four metro doctors were among 19 people charged in a pill scheme in the Detroit area. The scandal comes at a time when scores of doctors are fighting a pandemic across America.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the $41 million opioid scheme involved 19 people who were charged in a massive pain pill operation that federal prosecutors say included four physicians, three pharmacists, two nurse practitioners, a clinic owner and several others. The 44-count indictment charged the defendants with running a drug conspiracy for three years, alleging they peddled nearly 2 million pills on the black market, including the highly addictive Oxycodone and Oxymorphone, which alone carry a conservative street value of more than $41 million.

“Prescription drugs are supposed to go to people who truly need them, not to fake patients or people selling drugs on the streets,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said announcing the indictment. “We are focusing on charging doctors, pharmacists and the networks that add to the opioid crisis — and this case is unfortunately yet another example of the serious problem facing Michigan.”

The Free Press listed all of the names, ages and hometowns of the people charged in the indictment.

According to federal prosecutors in the Free Press story, the charged physicians prescribed more than 1.9 million doses of opioids, including Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, Percocet and codeine-laced cough syrup.

The conspiracy also involved patient recruiters and pharmacists who knowingly filled prescriptions that were medically unnecessary and then billed insurers, including Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies. Sometimes, according to the indictment, the pharmacists would take cash from the recruiters for filling the medications.

Detroit’s FBI chief, Steven M. D’Antunono had this to say about the scheme: “Today’s indictments are the result of health care professionals allegedly contributing to the devastating opioid crisis instead of working toward a solution. The public expects and deserves more from them.”

We are in accord with the Detroit FBI chief’s assessment of the scandal. It makes us wonder how many of the 58,725 doses of opioids trickled into the 15-county Upper Peninsula or even the Menominee-Marinette area.