601 people charged in major health care crackdown

Justice Dept arrests 601 people including doctors for health care fraud and opioid-related crimes

Numerous allegations centered on illegitimate opioid prescriptions. One hundred and sixty-two of the defendants were charged "for their roles in prescribing and distributing opioids and other unsafe narcotics", according to a press release by the Department of Justice. The value of the alleged scheme is pegged at $112 million. Another in Texas alleges that a pharmacy owner and pharmacist conspired to fill orders for over 1 million opioid doses, which were then sold to "drug couriers" for millions of dollars.

Collectively, the doctors, nurses, licensed medical professionals, health care company owners and others charged are accused of submitting a total of over $2 billion in fraudulent billings.

"In many cases, doctors, nurses and pharmacists take advantage of people suffering from drug addiction in order to line their pockets", Sessions stated.

HHS also announced Thursday that since July 2017, it has excluded 2,700 individuals from participation in Medicare, Medicaid and all other federal health care programs, which includes 587 providers, for conduct related to opioid diversion and abuse.

An additional 76 doctors were charged on suspicion of wrongly prescribing and distributing opioids.

The Justice Department also announced other cases unrelated to opioids, including schemes to bill the government healthcare programs Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare as well as private insurers for medically unnecessary prescription drugs and compounded medications. "Thirteen defendants allegedly defrauded taxpayers of more than $126 million, much of which was meant to pay for health care for our troops". Separately, dozens of distributors and drug manufacturers are facing charges from cities, states, counties, and Native American tribes in a consolidated case in an OH federal court that could yield an unprecedented settlement. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the epidemic caused more than 42,000 deaths from opioid overdoses in the United States in 2016.

The report said nearly 300 prescribers had "questionable prescribing" that warranted further scrutiny.

The indictment says opioids and other drugs were resold on the street.

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