Federal prosecutors are charging 60 doctors, pharmacists, medical professionals and others in connection with alleged opioid pushing and health care fraud, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
The charges came less than four months after the Justice Department dispatched experienced fraud prosecutors across hard-hit regions in Appalachia.
“The cases involve more than 350,000 prescriptions for controlled substances and more than 32 million pills...”
The cases involve more than 350,000 prescriptions for controlled substances and more than 32 million pills — the equivalent of a dose of opioids for "every man, woman and child," across Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and West Virginia, said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski.
"You can rest assured, when medical professionals behave like drug dealers, the Department of Justice is going to treat them like drug dealers," added Benczkowski, who runs the DOJ's criminal division.
Those charged include 31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurse practitioners and seven other licensed medical professionals, the Justice Department said.
The idea for the department's Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force was formed last autumn to assist areas suffering from high numbers of opioid overdoses and deaths.
Justice Department leaders ultimately approved sending 14 health care fraud prosecutors to several different federal districts to help build cases. They started in January, sifting through data analysis to find the biggest outliers.
Then, the prosecutors used traditional law enforcement methods, including search warrants, confidential informants and surveillance, officials say.
It's not yet clear how many of the defendants ensnared in this round of prosecutions may fight the charges in court. To prevail, the Justice Department would need to prove that prescriptions were written and filled outside the course of normal medical practices and that they had no legitimate medical purpose.
In some examples, authorities pointed to "inordinately large quantities, 100 prescriptions per day," or other suspicious facts — such as prescriptions with no evidence of a patient having been physically examined.