Sessions announces new unit and policy to target opioid prescription abuses

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The Department of Justice will be targeting doctors who are spreading opioid addiction by overprescribing painkillers, according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who will be appointing 12 veteran prosecutors to pursue the practice.

Speaking to the Columbus Police Academy in Ohio Wednesday, Sessions said the new prosecutors will “focus solely” on rooting out doctors and other medical providers who are taking advantage of the widespread addiction to opioids in the U.S.

“These prosecutors, working with FBI, DEA, HHS, as well as our state and local partners, will help us target and prosecute these doctors, pharmacies, and medical providers who are furthering this epidemic to line their pockets,” Sessions said at the event. “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. The Department is determined to attack this opioid epidemic, and I believe these resources will make a difference.”

Assigned to 12 of the regions affected most by the opioid epidemic, including Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio, the prosecutors will aggressively pursue prosecutions for opioid related health care fraud.

Sessions also unveiled the Department of Justice’s new Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, a data analytics program that will help prosecutors identify offenders who are writing bad opioid scripts. Doctors producing scripts for painkillers at a higher rate then their peers, or pharmacies filling larger than typical quantities of the same, would be flagged.

The DOJ has already been busy pursuing cases of fraud and abuse.

In mid-July, Sessions and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D., announced a massive takedown operation by the Medicare Fraud Strike Force. The case involved $1.3 billion in fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid billings, and was the largest in the history of the Department of Justice. Charges were filed against 412 defendants, including 115 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical personnel.

In late July, Sessions announced the “largest dark net marketplace takedown in world history,” as the DOJ busted a network of websites that provided illegal weapons, deadly drugs, stolen identities and child pornography. The bust included 40,000 illegal vendors providing drugs to 200,000 customers, “pouring fuel on the fire of the national drug epidemic.”

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