The Attorney General just announced the largest healthcare fraud crackdown to date, which is targeting 600 people, including over 150 healthcare professionals. The cases are related to the opioid addiction epidemic.
According to the DOJ’s allegations, the defendants submitted false claims to the government in the amount of $2 billion in connection with opioid prescriptions and distribution.
In the announcement, Sessions referred to the opioid epidemic, stating that it had over 42,000 fatal victims in 2016 alone. The Attorney General referred to the crisis as “the deadliest drug epidemic in the history of this country,” and expressed outrage at the doctors who see “vulnerable people suffering from addiction” as “dollar signs.”
162 of the defendants in the case were arrested on charges related to the distribution and prescription of opioids and other addictive substances. 76 among them are doctors.
Sessions specifically referred to the case of one doctor, who distributed over 2.2 million medically unnecessary doses of opioid painkillers, defrauding government healthcare programs of over $112 million.
Private insurers have equally been defrauded according to the DOJ’s allegations.
As it is often the case in this type of schemes, prosecutors believe there was a complex network of patient recruiters, kickbacks, and dishonest doctors and clinics in place, to facilitate the fraud.
Participating doctors received anything from prostitutes and fancy meals to cash in exchange for unnecessary opioid prescriptions.
According to the DEA’s Assistant Administrator, John Martin, Nashville, Tennessee was the scene of a massive prescription drug trafficking scheme. The five defendants in that particular case fraudulently obtained thousands of oxycodone pills, which they then distributed on the street, according to allegations.
In many cases, fraudsters preyed on vulnerable populations, such as Medicare-covered seniors.
The most salient defendants charged include a Florida-based anesthesiologist who allegedly run a “pill mill;” a Pennsylvania physician who routinely billed a private insurer for illegal prescriptions; the owner of a pharmacy chain who sold opioid painkillers to drug dealers; and the masterminds of a pill press outfit that produced over 160,000 oxycodone pills per month in Baton Rouge.
In a recent speech in New Hampshire, Jeff Sessions promised that the DOJ will go after fraudsters aggressively, “seize drugs, seize their money, and put their leaders in jail.”
While some had interpreted speeches by Trump as targeting users instead of dealers, Session reassured the public that the administration wants “to go up the chain,” and hopes to reduce opioid painkiller prescriptions by over 30 percent by 2021. “We’re not just locking up criminals to lock up criminals. We’re preventing addiction from spreading,” Sessions concluded.
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