It’s no secret that in recent years the opioid prescription drug epidemic has increased. With an increased number of opioid-related overdoses from prescriptions and illicit street drugs, the government is cracking down on everyone. This intervention is cracking down especially on pain management doctors and pain clinics. Due to the very nature of the profession, many doctors are finding themselves on the receiving end of prescription fraud lawsuits and civil lawsuits for injured parties. This article will review some of the triggers that prompt government cases and the effects they have on pain clinics and prescribers of pain medicine.
The Department of Justice’s Crackdown on Opioid Abuse
Under the direction of Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions, “the largest health care fraud takedown in American history” was announced. The takedown included many arrests, exclusion from governmental insurance programs like Medicaid and Medicare, fraud and pharmacy fraud-related charges. It has been estimated that the takedown has saved taxpayers approximately $1.3 billion. Sessions also indicated that he intends on continuing with increased measures to fight the epidemic.
Increased Governmental Monitoring of Prescribing Practices and Pharmacy Fraud
To continue his campaign against opioid and pharmacy fraud, Attorney General Sessions also started the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit. The unit operates under the DOJ and monitors data that alerts the unit to potential dangers of pharmacy fraud. Among these dangers include:
- Opioid related drug diversion
- Physician shopping
- Kickbacks and incentives monitoring
- Illegal drug dispensing practices
In addition to monitoring, the enforcement agency has assigned special federal prosecutors to 12 areas identified as having disproportionately high rates of opioid abuse. The unit will combine forces with the DEA, FBI, HHS, and local and state law enforcement agencies. Those monitoring prescriber practices are also ordered to look for clues indicating the following:
- Higher than average opioid scripts written
- Opioid related deaths within 60-days
- Patient demographics including ages of patients receiving opioid scripts
- Other prescribing practices that are indicative of pharmacy fraud and abuse
The Penalties for Prescription Drug Fraud
As previously mentioned, stiff sentencing guidelines and civil penalties are at stake from prescription drug fraud. Depending on the severity of the circumstances, many prescribers could face from 10 to 20 years in prison with a maximum penalty of a life sentence. Hefty civil lawsuits are also common when a prescriber’s negligence is the result of serious injury or death. The loss of credentials, licensing, and income is also likely even if a prison sentence isn’t imposed. The loss of credibility and credentials in the medical field can also affect one’s future when attempting to obtain other employment. Family and relationship strains are almost a certainty as well.
When to Act
If you’ve been notified by the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit or any other agency of law enforcement, you need immediate representation. If you have a strong suspicion that an investigation may be underway, it’s also time to contact a competent attorney that has federal case experience. Many clients can walk away unscathed with a solid legal defense and our expertise. It’s strongly inadvisable to speak with law enforcement until represented in these matters. Representing yourself in court is never a good idea. With such a complex area of the law involving many components, you’ll need an experienced attorney on your side. Get in touch with our law office for a case review. We’ll give you some insight and will get to work on your case by building a defense strategy and fighting for your rights.