CONNECTICUT U.S. ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
DEA HOST PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE SUMMIT
Norwalk, Conn. – More than 200 law enforcement officers, healthcare professionals, educators and community members gathered today on the campus of Norwalk Community College to attend the 2012 Connecticut Prescription Drug Abuse Summit. The conference and training event, which was hosted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration, focused on the epidemic of prescription drug trafficking and abuse.
Following opening remarks by United States Attorney David B. Fein, the conference featured a full-day of panel discussions, including an overview of the problem from the perspective of law enforcement and the medical profession, the effect of prescription narcotics on the brain and society, safeguarding our youth from substance abuse, the pharmaceutical industry perspective, and the government’s response to America’s prescription drug crisis.
“The numbers associated with prescription drug abuse are eye-opening and tragic,” said U.S. Attorney David Fein. “It is estimated that seven million Americans regularly abuse prescription drugs, including one in seven teenagers. Although often perceived as safer than street drugs, the illegal use of prescription drugs can be just as dangerous and addictive. Nationally, prescription drugs now cause more overdose deaths each year – nearly 40,000 – than cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine combined. Here in New England, prescription drug abuse is second only to heroin abuse in causing overdose deaths, and it is coming close to overtaking even that. Given this rampant problem, I have made combating prescription drug abuse a priority program for our Office.”
“DEA and our law enforcement partners are committed to combating prescription drug abuse,” said Kevin L. Lane, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in New England. “DEA aggressively targets drug trafficking organizations whether that group distributes Oxycontin or other drugs, and our commitment to dismantling these organizations is unwavering. In addition to our enforcement efforts in combating this threat, DEA has held National Prescription Drug Take back days resulting in tons of unwanted or unneeded prescription drugs being surrendered. These efforts have been successful because of our law enforcement and diversion professionals in Connecticut.”
In Connecticut, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has partnered with federal, state and local agencies – including the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Connecticut State Police, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection’s Drug Control Division and several local police departments – to dedicate and marshal resources to battle the illegal sale and use of prescription drugs.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office has lowered the thresholds at which we accept cases for federal prosecution, and assigned prosecutors experienced in health care fraud as well as cocaine and heroin trafficking cases to handle these matters,” said U.S. Attorney Fein. “Through the use of all investigative techniques at our disposal, including traditional narcotics trafficking investigative tactics such as the use of undercover agents and wiretaps, we are committed to investigating every aspect of the illegal supply chain of prescription pills to fight this problem.”
In the last year, more than 50 defendants have been charged federally in Connecticut with prescription narcotics-related offenses. Defendants include large-scale traffickers, local dealers, pharmacy technicians, licensed and unlicensed doctors, doctor’s office employees, and law enforcement officers.
In April 2011, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced the results of “Operation Big Blue,” the District of Connecticut’s first wiretap investigation into the illicit trafficking of prescription narcotics. Sixteen defendants have been charged in this conspiracy to distribute oxycodone in New Haven County.
In September 2011, “Operation Blue Coast” resulted in the arrests of approximately 20 individuals, including three TSA officers and two law enforcement officers, who were charged for their alleged involvement in a conspiracy to distribute oxycodone. It is alleged that over the course of several months, 6,000 to 8,000 pills were transported from Florida to Connecticut approximately three times a week.
In October 2011, the Office announced “Operation Pharm Team,” an ongoing, joint law-enforcement and regulatory agency initiative that has resulted in charges against more than 10 individuals, including pharmacy technicians and doctors’ office employees, stemming from the improper distribution of prescription medication.
“Although, we and our law enforcement partners have shared successes in investigating and prosecuting these cases, the problem of illicit prescription drugs is not purely a law enforcement problem, and there is no purely law enforcement solution,” said U.S. Attorney Fein. “This summit, which provided insightful presentations from representatives of the health care provider community, those involved in treating and working with people struggling with addiction, educators and pharmaceutical industry representatives, has brought us a step closer to understanding the true nature and extent of the prescription drug problem in this country, and fostered progress to battle the problem effectively. We are honored to have had participants and panelists with such rich and diverse backgrounds.”
“We all know the bad news, that illegal prescription drug activity is widespread, growing and dangerous,” continued U.S. Attorney Fein. “The good news, however, is that many people and institutions are dedicated to addressing this problem. We will continue to bring our criminal, civil, and administrative resources to bear to implement the ideas generated by this summit. Working together, we can maximize all of our efforts to protect our communities from the plague of illegal prescription drugs.”
The United States Attorney’s Office is charged with enforcing federal criminal laws in Connecticut, and with representing the federal government in civil litigation in the District.
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