The Justice Department is starting to go after doctors who profit from prescribing opioids, said Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday.
The DOJ is targeting “pill mills” – clinics where doctors write unnecessary painkiller prescriptions in exchange for cash or other incentives. This practice has contributed to the opioid epidemic by creating more addicts and flooding communities with pills.
“I’ve been to 30, 40 United States Attorney offices all over America, and they all have cases on physicians, some on pharmacies, some hospitals have poor control measures, and pills are out there,” said Sessions. “[Patients] get addicted, and then they move to heroin and fentanyl and die. Our goal is flat out to bring down the number of deaths.”
Matthew Anderson, a chiropractor in Lenoir City, TN, was fined over $1.45 million for using TennCare and Medicare to fill unnecessary prescriptions for opioids.
“The opioid epidemic has had a crushing effect on patients and families across middle Tennessee,” says HHS official Derrick Jackson. “Pill mills like these billed medically unnecessary services to Medicare and TennCare and contributed to problems of opioid abuse and addiction.”
The allegations against Anderson were brought by a former manager at one of his clinics, who filed a civil lawsuit under the False Claims Act.
“In this case, a concerned whistleblower brought a civil suit which ultimately held those responsible for the illicit prescribing of opioids and at the same time cheating the taxpayers by causing federal healthcare programs to pay for such highly addictive drugs,” explains Tennessee attorney David Cochran. “We will continue to give the highest priority to fighting opioid abuse on all fronts.”
The whistleblower received over $200,000 for speaking up.
Meanwhile, Anderson was found to have billed TennCare and Medicare for office visits that should not have been reimbursable. The four clinics he managed have all been shut down, and Anderson has been banned from billing federal healthcare programs for the next five years.
“If we’re going to end this unprecedented drug crisis, which is claiming the lives of 64,000 Americans each year, doctors must stop over-prescribing opioids and law enforcement must aggressively pursue those medical professionals who act in their own financial interests, at the expense of their patients’ best interests,” said Sessions.
In a January visit to Kentucky, Sessions discussed an analytical program that searches for potential opioid-related healthcare fraud by doctors and other medical care providers.
The Justice Department is also making an effort to teach postmen and mail carriers how to identify painkillers that are sent by mail – especially from other countries.
The FBI has already located and destroyed a Thailand-based website, “Alpha Bay,” that sent customers guns and painkillers. The individual involved in the case killed himself before authorities arrived.
Editor’s note: Its about time! Governor Rick Scott was successful in shutting down a lot of the pill mills in Florida, a great success. Hopefully this will hold the attention of the Feds for a while and do some good.