Justice Dept. announces crackdown on opioid abuse by doctors

Posted July 14, 2017

Federal authorities announced charges Thursday against 412 physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other medical professionals, in what Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the largest health care fraud enforcement operation in USA history. The abuses included a clinic in Houston selling opioid prescriptions for cash, another medical group in MI that intentionally wrote unnecessary opioid prescriptions that wound up being resold on the street and a fake rehab facility in Palm Beach, Fla., that recruited addicts with gift cards, trips to strip clubs and other drug-enabling behavior. Sessions admitted to having the interactions, but said they were held in his capacity as a USA senator, a position he occupied for 20 years before becoming attorney general.

The arrests came as part of what the department said was the largest healthcare fraud takedown in US history.

Officials said it was the largest-ever health care fraud enforcement action by a Medicare Fraud Strike Force and involved the arrests of more than 400 people for alleged false billings totaling some $1.3 billion. We will bring you to justice.

At the end of the press conference, Sessions and Price discussed their strategies to address the country's drug-addiction epidemic, which is heavily fueled by increased levels of opioid prescriptions.

The Southern California News Group recently investigated the addiction industry and found it peppered with financial abuses that bleed untold millions from public and private pockets, can upend neighborhoods and often fails to set addicts on a path to sobriety.

In a Houston case, federal authorities allege a doctor at a pain management clinic issued unnecessary prescriptions for the opioid painkiller hydrocodone in exchange for $300 in cash per visit. Government statistics show 600 new heroin users each day, and opioid overdoses have exceeded 50,000 annually - the figure Rosenberg illustrated by asking reporters to imagine the Pulse nightclub massacre happening three times a day, every day for a year.

Over 300 agents from the HHS Office of the Inspector General were involved in the crackdown, along with 30 state Medicare fraud units and 370 Federal Bureau of Investigation agents.