Department of Justice Forms Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit

Addiction to opioid pain killers has reached epidemic proportions. In fact, some studies estimate that more deaths are caused by opioids, such as oxycodone and OxyContin, than motor vehicle accidents in the United States. The government and law enforcement agencies nationwide are struggling with how to respond to this ever-growing problem. Police are cracking down on illegal possession and distribution, but the process has not been easy. For starters, opioids are legal with a valid prescription. Further, the problem is more likely to be resolved with education and rehabilitation; jail time and criminal penalties often do more harm than good.

Most people who become addicted to opioid pain killers start with a legal prescription. Opioids are often given after painful surgical procedures that require long-term recovery, such as hip replacements and back surgeries. But even lesser injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, may be treated with opioid pain killers. The ease with which some doctors prescribe these highly-addictive drugs, and the drug manufacturers’ eagerness to fill those prescriptions, is at the center of a national debate. In response, the Justice Department has recently formed the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit. The unit will focus on “investigating and prosecuting health care fraud related to prescription opioids, including pill mill schemes and pharmacies that unlawfully divert or dispense prescription opioids for illegitimate purposes.”

Some Doctors Write More Monthly Opioid Prescriptions Than Entire Hospitals

The new program, which will kick off in 12 states, is announced on the heels of the recent $1.3 billion sting that resulted in 400 people being criminally charged with health care fraud, much of which was directly related to the prescription of opioid pain killers. In some cases, doctors were enticing addicts with visits to strip clubs and casinos. Some doctors were writing more opioid prescriptions per month than entire hospitals. If you are facing charges for opioid possession or sale, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced Boston drug crimes defense attorney without delay.

“I have created this unit to focus specifically on opioid-related health care fraud using data to identify and prosecute individuals that are contributing to this opioid epidemic,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. ”This sort of data analytics team can tell us important information about prescription opioids — like which physicians are writing opioid prescriptions at a rate that far exceeds their peers; how many of a doctor’s patients died within 60 days of an opioid prescription; the average age of the patients receiving these prescriptions; pharmacies that are dispensing disproportionately large amounts of opioids; and regional hot spots for opioid issues.”

Penalties for Selling Opioid Pain Killers

If you are charged with selling oxycodone or OxyContin without a valid prescription, you may be facing felony charges. The following factors will be considered when determining whether there was, in fact, intent to sell:

  • The amount of the drug in possession
  • The drug’s purity
  • The presence of large amounts of cash
  • The presence of drug paraphernalia

If, for example, you were in possession of $3,000 in cash and 1,000 pills, divided equally among 100 plastic bags, a claim that the pills were for personal use only is unlikely to be believed. If convicted of selling oxycodone or OxyContin, you may be facing between five and 20 years in prison. If anyone dies as a result, you may be facing life in prison. If you are facing any type of drug charge, contact a MA drug crimes defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Top Drug Crimes Defense Attorneys in MA

If you have been charged with illegal possession or sale of opioid pain killers, the skilled legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. Although illegal possession and sale of opioid pain killers is considered a criminal act, we understand that this is more of a public health issue than a crime. Fortunately, it appears that the DOJ is starting to agree. The department’s focus on doctors, clinics, and pharmaceutical companies is evidence of this shift in thinking. But we have a long way to go before punishments for opioid-related drug crimes see any significant change. If you are facing drug charges, we can help. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

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