A new Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit has been formed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to focus specifically on opioid-related health care fraud using data to identify and prosecute individuals who contribute to the prescription opioid epidemic, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced. The pilot program will fund 12 experienced assistant U.S. Attorneys for a three-year term to crack down on unlawful pill mill schemes and pharmacies that unlawfully divert or dispense prescription opioids for illegitimate purposes.
Participating districts include the Middle District of Florida, Eastern District of Michigan, Northern District of Alabama, Eastern District of Tennessee, District of Nevada, Eastern District of Kentucky, District of Maryland, Western District of Pennsylvania, Southern District of Ohio, Eastern District of California, Middle District of North Carolina, and Southern District of West Virginia.
The program will provide the assistant attorneys general with a new data analytics program. “This sort of data analytics team can tell us important information about prescription opioids — like which physicians are writing opioid prescriptions at a rate that far exceeds their peers; how many of a doctor’s patients died within 60 days of an opioid prescription; the average age of the patients receiving these prescriptions; pharmacies that are dispensing disproportionately large amounts of opioids; and regional hot spots for opioid issues,” Sessions said.
In 2015, more than 52,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses, and the trend continues to rise with nearly 60,000 overdose deaths reported in 2016. The crisis is driven primarily by opioids – prescription drugs, heroin, and synthetic drugs like fentanyl.
“In the face of the worst drug crisis in our history, we need to use every lawful tool we have,” Sessions said. “But I’m convinced this is a winnable war.”
Source: U.S. Department of Justice