Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced formation of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit on Aug. 2, 2017. The unit is a Department of Justice pilot program that uses data collection and analysis to help combat the devastating opioid crisis that is ravaging families and communities across America. The Department of Justice selected the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama as one of only 12 districts across the country to participate in the pilot program. As a participant, the Northern District will receive funding for three years for a prosecutor who will 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.
U.S. Attorney Jay Town established the Opioid Pilot Project Task Force (OPP) to implement and execute the pilot program and appointed a veteran prosecutor in the office to lead it. The OPP Task Force will work with the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, and state and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute pill mills and physicians and pharmacists contributing to the opioid epidemic. Through DOJ’s Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, the task force will have the advantage of data analytics that can point to potential opioid prescribing abuses. The analytics can show physicians who are writing opioid prescriptions at a rate far exceeding that of their peers; the number of a doctor’s patients who died within 60 days of an opioid prescription; the average age of patients receiving the opioid prescriptions; pharmacies that are dispensing disproportionately large amounts of opioids; and regional hot spots for opioid issues.