Federal law enforcement officers are cracking down on doctors fraudulently selling opioids to patients faster than ever now, thanks to better access to a wider range of prescription drug databases, Medicaid and Medicare numbers, coroners’ records and other relevant statistics compiled by the Justice Department on America’s ongoing drug crisis.
Authorities have been chasing so-called “pill mills” for years, but this new approach is bringing more federal resources to combat the still-escalating epidemic, TIME reports. The Justice Department is providing volumes of information to the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which combines the forces of authorities in 12 regions across the United States.
The data shows which doctors are prescribing opioids the most, how far patients are traveling to see them, and whether any patients have died within 60 days of getting a doctor’s prescription. With this, analysts in Washington can quickly provide information that allows authorities to zoom in on a region’s top opioid prescribers, and do something about them.
Robert Cessar, a longtime federal prosecutor, said,
This data shines a light we’ve never had before. We don’t need to have confidential informants on the street to start a case. Now, we have someone behind a computer screen who is helping us. That has to put (doctors) on notice that we have new tools.
Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, said that the Justice Department will consider stopping anyone who breaks the law, even pharmaceutical companies, as the department seeks to bring more cases to light and cut down on the number of unnecessary prescriptions.
This data analysis approach provides clues on who might be breaking the law, in collaboration with good old-fashioned detective work that relies on tips from informants or undercover visits to doctors’ offices, according to Shawn A. Brokos, a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Pittsburgh division.
While authorities agree that there are some cases where doctors can and will prescribe large amounts of opioids, they are on the lookout for red flags – dentists, psychiatrists, gynecologists and other specialists who are prescribing drugs at unwarranted high rates.