Who Is Jacqueline Cleggett? Horrifying Details About Pill Mill Opioid Doctor In Netflix's 'The Pharmacist'

Photo: Netflix
Who Is Jacqueline Cleggett? Horrifying Details About Pill Mill Opioid Doctor In Netflix's 'The Pharmacist'
Entertainment And News

In the new Netflix docu-series The Pharmacist, audiences get an inside look into the black market for prescription opioids and how one man tried to stop the opioid scourge in his town.

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After dealing with the death of his own son in a drug deal gone wrong, pharmacist Dan Schneider became concerned about the rise in Oxycontin prescriptions he was seeing. He understood how addictive the pain medicine could be and he was afraid the prescriptions were coming from shady sources, not legitimate doctors. He began an investigation and partnered with law enforcement to track down a doctor named Jacqueline Cleggett who was running a so-called pill mill in the St. Bernard parish, outside of New Orleans, Louisiana. The doctor billed herself as a a specialist but it was clear her patients weren't people seeking relief from real pain; they were addicts or drug dealers looking for drugs for their own purposes. 

Who is Jacqueline Cleggett and where is she now? Read on for all the details. 

1. Who is Jacqueline Cleggett? 

In her interview for The Pharmacist, which is featured in the docu-series, Cleggett said she had wanted to be a doctor since she was 8 years old. She got her medical training from Morehouse School of Medicine and went on to be a family practitioner for a time. She married a fellow doctor, with whom she had three children, though they later divorced. 

After practicing family medicine, she went to work for Gulf South Medical Consultants soft tissue exams for personal injury clients with her own private practice on the side. Eventually, she quit Gulf South, got a certificate from the American Academy of Pain Medicine as a pain specialist, and opened a new office in a seedier part of town, known more for strip clubs than medical offices. 

Dr. Cleggett prescribed thousands of Oxycontin pills. 

2. What was her "pill mill" like?

The office she opened in St. Bernard parish was what authorities called a "pill mill." She saw patients late at night and her waiting room was always crowded. Cars parked around her office often had out of state license plates, as if she was attracting people from surrounding areas. She charged a cash fee for visits but additional money could get a patient seen faster. She prescribed almost exclusively Oxycontin, and rarely prescribed any dosage under 40 mg. She almost never write prescriptions for antibiotics or other pain medication. By one law enforcement estimate in The Pharmacist, she prescribed over 180,000 Oxycontin pills in a new year period and took in about $2 million in cash. 

Despite the number of overdoes occurring due to opioids during the time she was handing out pills like they were candy, when producers asked her if she know of any patients of hers that had died, she skirted the question by saying, "Do you have any patients in mind?"

3. Who is Dan Schneider and how did he get involved in this case?

As we learn in the docu-series, Dan Schneider is a St. Bernard parish pharmacist and father of two. In 1999, his family suffered a tragic loss when his son Danny was shot during a drug deal gone wrong in the Ninth Ward in New Orleans. Schnieder was determined to get answers and bring the killer to justice so he pursued the investigation for a year and a half, despite reluctance from the police to help him. Danny's murderer was eventually identified and convicted but we won't reveal spoilers here. 

In the years following his son's death, Schneider returned to his work at a local pharmacy and started noticing a trend in prescriptions for Oxycontin coming in for young, otherwise healthy-seeming people. The prescriptions were all written by the same doctor: Jacqueline Cleggett.  At the time, Oxycontin was relatively new to the market and was considered a major advance in the treatment of chronic pain. But Schnieder realized that patients were becoming addicted to the medication, even when prescriptions were legitimate. He worried that the scripts he was seeing for the medication were quite the opposite of legitimate. 

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Schneider has personal experience with the heartbreak of addiction. 

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4. Schneider helped investigate Cleggett's practice. 

Using the same tactics he had employed to track down his own son's killer, Schnieder started looking into who Jacqueline Cleggett was and what she was doing. He found her office and watched her patients come and go, late into the night. One man walked in on crutches, as if he was in real pain, but walked back out, holding the crutches in his hand, as if they were a prop. Between his observations and the records his pharmacy kept about her prescribing habits, Schneider was able to speak with authorities about his suspicions. It took several years, the involvement of local police and prosecutors, the FBI, the DEA, and the state medical board but eventually Cleggett was arrested and had her license revoked. 

5. Was Cleggett using opioids herself?

Patients who visited her office thought she might have been using the medication herself, according to the Netflix series. When law enforcement went to her home in 2002, they saw empty bottles of Oxycontin and assumed that she was taking the drugs herself. Just before her hearing about losing her medical license, she was admitted to a mental health facility on the grounds that she was abusing drugs, among other things. However, when asked on camera, she claimed she had never abused drugs. 

6. She eventually ended up on Oxycontin for legitimate reasons.

Cleggett was in a terrible car accident in 2002 and broke her neck. She nearly died and was intubated on a ventilator for six weeks after the accident. The injuries left her permanently, partially paralyzed. "I had a hangman's fracture, which is what happens when you hang from a noose and break your neck," she said to the cameras. "I had two brain hemorrhages, five skull fractures. The reason why I sound different is because I was intubated for six weeks. My voice is now higher and squeakier. Following the accident, I was prescribed OxyContin. And, no, I didn't have any problems with it. Actually it helped alleviate a lot of pain."

7. Where is Jacqueline Cleggett now?

Eventually, Cleggett was tried for her crimes. In 2007, she was charged with illegal distribution of OxyContin, Vicodin, methadone and other drugs between June 2000 and February 2002. She faced up to 20 years in jail and a $1 million fine but pled down to a one count of conspiring to dispense and distribute controlled substances in July 2009 and was sentenced to three months probation. She will never be able to practice medicine again, though she claims in the interview, that she has dreams about being a doctor and wakes up only to remember that she cannot treat patients. She still maintains that she did not actually do the things for which she was charged. 

Cleggett now lives in New Orleans and is forbidden from practicing medicine. 

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.

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