Opioid Charges Defense Lawyer
In recent weeks, there has been an increase of U.S. government charges, investigations and arrests pertaining to the owners, founders, CEOs and other executives of opioid and similar pharmaceutical companies manufacturers and doctors who distribute them. An October 2017 arrest in Phoenix Arizona included charges of racketeering, conspiracy to violate the Anti-kickback statutes, bribery and fraud:
In August 2017, the United States Department of Justice also announced its formation of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit (click here). According to the DOJ’s announcement:
Speaking at the Columbus Police Academy today, Attorney General Sessions said that the new Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit will focus specifically on opioid-related health care fraud using data to identify and prosecute individuals that are contributing to this prescription opioid epidemic.
Additionally, as part of the program, the Department will fund twelve experienced Assistant United States Attorneys for a three year term to focus solely 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.
The following districts have been selected to participate in the program:
- Middle District of Florida,
- Eastern District of Michigan,
- Northern District of Alabama,
- Eastern District of Tennessee,
- District of Nevada,
- Eastern District of Kentucky,
- District of Maryland,
- Western District of Pennsylvania,
- Southern District of Ohio,
- Eastern District of California,
- Middle District of North Carolina, and
- Southern District of West Virginia.
In his speech, the Attorney General discussed the new program:
“First, I am announcing a new data analytics program – the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit. 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. 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.
“With this data in hand, I am also assigning 12 experienced prosecutors to focus solely on investigating and prosecuting opioid-related health care fraud cases in a dozen locations around the country where we know enforcement will make a difference in turning the tide on this epidemic. 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. These prosecutors will be based in several states across the country, including Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and right here in Southern Ohio.
“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.”
In July 2017, the DOJ announced a “National Health Care Fraud Takedown” which resulted in the arrests of 412 people (click here). The news release stated, “Of those charged, over 120 defendants were charged for their roles in prescribing and distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics.”
If you seek counsel pertaining to defending yourself against investigations and charges pertaining to opioid manufacturing, distribution and other aspects (including the mentioned racketeering, Anti-kickback statute violations) then you are welcome to contact us through our contact form or by calling today.
More Information On Opioid Legislation
In 2018 Congress passed the ” Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act” – https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/6
These resources will give you more information about the Act:
- PDF of the Act from Congress.gov
- Kaiser Family Foundation article
- Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy article
- FDA’s assisting regulators with the opioid crisis
Here is a memo about the legal implications of this bill (PDF here) with a few of the bullet points:
The Act prohibits any person, with respect to services covered by a health care benefit program, from paying, offering to pay, soliciting or receiving any remuneration (1) to induce a referral of an individual to a recovery home, clinical treatment facility, or a laboratory or (2) in exchange for an individual using the services of a recovery home, clinical treatment facility or a laboratory. The Act does not offer a specific definition of “remuneration,” so presumably the definition would be the same or substantially similar to the broad definition provided in the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”), which includes the transfer of anything of value, directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, in cash or in kind.
Importantly, the Act applies to kickbacks related to services covered by a “health care benefit program,” which is defined as “any public or private plan or contract, affecting commerce, under which any medical benefit, item, or service is provided to any individual, and includes any individual or entity who is providing a medical benefit, item, or service for which payment may be made under the plan or contract.” The definition of health care benefit program sets the Act apart from other notable federal health care fraud and abuse laws in that it applies to services reimbursable by private insurers and not just governmental insurance programs. Because of that, it is likely that the Act applies to virtually all substance abuse treatment facilities and laboratories.