“I bet you something shady is going on,” said Jeff Froehlich, who works at a local Philadelphia shop across the street from an urgent care clinic in Willow Grove.
Froehlich was referring to the lines of 10, 15, even 20 people waiting outside of the medical facility, Advanced Urgent Care, before they even opened for the day. Roughly 85% of all urgent care centers are open seven days a week, but rarely do they see lines of patients waiting to get in on a daily basis.
After seeing these queues, Froehlich’s suspicions were confirmed recently when federal law enforcement descended on the facility in question.
The Advanced Urgent Care clinic in Willow Grove was among five facilities across Pennsylvania raided by investigators from the FBI, the DEA, and other federal agencies. Four other Advanced Urgent Care locations were also raided by federal investigators, who have placed opioid prescribers under intense scrutiny in recent years. The Inquirer reports that the October raids were “part of a drug-related probe into Mehdi Nikparvar-Fard, who owns at least two of the clinics.”
In addition, The Inquirer reports that “Nikparvar-Fard has not been charged with any drug-related crimes, but has long been in federal crosshairs.”
Amidst a deadly opioid and heroin epidemic across the country, there are still so-called “pill mills” in operation. These are medical clinics over-prescribing legal versions of opioids to patients who don’t need them. These patients can then abuse the medication themselves or sell them on the black market to drug dealers. In either case, pill mills fuel addiction wherever they are found.
“You could have one doctor who in a very short period of time can distribute thousands [of prescription pills],” said Patrick Trainor, a DEA spokesman.
When The Inquirer reporters called the Northeast Philadelphia clinic and got through to someone, the employee said there wasn’t a corporate office and then placed the caller on hold until they hung up. A second attempt to call back was met with an out-of-service signal.
The opioid crisis has claimed more than 59,000 lives last year alone and President Trump recently declared the epidemic a national health emergency.
“No part of our society — not young or old, rich or poor, urban or rural — has been spared this plague of drug addiction and this horrible, horrible situation that’s taken place with opioids,” said Trump.