Program Targets Opioid Fraud and Abuse

AUGUST 04, 2017
Jennifer Barrett, Assistant Editor
To combat the abuse and diversion of opioid medications, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced the formation of a new Department of Justice (DOJ) pilot program to crack down on opioid-related health care fraud.

The DOJ has recently ramped up efforts to target and prosecute those involved in opioid-related fraud. In July, the DOJ charged more than 400 individuals in what was called the “largest health care fraud enforcement action in DOJ history.” 

The new program, called the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, will be a data analytics-based effort focusing on the investigation and prosecution of pill mill schemes and pharmacies involved in the diversion or dispensing of prescription opioids for illegitimate purposes.

While speaking at the Columbus Police Academy in Ohio, Attorney General Sessions announced the formation of the unit, stating “To confront a crisis on this scale, we must take a comprehensive approach to the problem. There are 3 components: prevention, enforcement, and treatment.”

The team will use data to identify individuals who may be involved in the illicit distribution of narcotics. Data will include information about prescription opioid use, such as which physicians’ offices are writing prescriptions at a high rate, how many of the physicians’ patients died within 60 days of a prescription, the average of patients receiving prescriptions, pharmacies that are dispensing disproportionately large amounts of opioids, and regional hot spots for opioid issues.

Additionally, 12 experienced assistant US attorneys will be assigned for a 3-year term to focus solely on investigating and prosecuting opioid-related health care fraud cases in selected locations, including Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Ohio.

In his speech, Sessions remarked, “With these new resources, we will be better positioned to identify, prosecute, and convict some of the individuals contributing to these tens of thousands of deaths a year.”

Attorney General Sessions announces opioid fraud and abuse detection unit [news release]. DOJ’s website. . Accessed August 3, 2017.