U.S. charges over 400 peo­ple in schemes worth $1.3 bil­lion

The Denver Post - - NATION & WORLD - By Joseph Tan­fani

WASH­ING­TON» A na­tion­wide law en­force­ment push aimed at the opi­oid cri­sis net­ted more than 400 ar­rests na­tion­wide, top fed­eral of­fi­cials an­nounced Thurs­day.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions said the record num­ber of ar­rests, which in­cluded more than 120 peo­ple al­legedly in­volved in pre­scrib­ing opi­oids, are a pre­view of a more ag­gres­sive ap­proach to com­bat­ing the na­tion’s spi­ral­ing epi­demic of drug ad­dic­tion. “We be­lieve there are a lot more cases that need to be brought,” Ses­sions said, say­ing that some of the ar­rests started with com­puter work to iden­tify out­liers pre­scrib­ing more drugs than av­er­age.

Most of the ar­rests took place this week, in­clud­ing 77 peo­ple in Florida who were charged in var­i­ous schemes — in­clud­ing re­cruit­ing ad­dicts to move to Palm Beach in re­turn for gift cards, casino trips and vis­its to strip clubs.

Most of the cases in­volve false billings of Medi­care for pills, equip­ment and ser­vices that were never pro­vided. All told, the cases in­volve more than $1.3 bil­lion in fraud, of­fi­cials said.

Of­fi­cials said the gov­ern­ment must find ways to re­duce the de­mand for pre­scrip­tion nar­cotics. Four out of five new heroin ad­dicts start with pre­scrip­tion pain pills, said Chuck Rosen­berg, act­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor of the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“We would like to see a re­duc­tion in the pre­scrip­tion of opi­oids,” Ses­sions said. “I be­lieve those num­bers are way too high. The U.S. is by far the high­est­pre­scrib­ing opi­oid na­tion in the world; no other na­tion is close to it.”

Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Tom Price said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is com­mit­ted to com­bat­ing the cri­sis in ways be­sides en­force­ment. Many peo­ple are not get­ting into re­cov­ery pro­grams, he said.

In West Vir­ginia, he said, “one fire­fighter re­vived the same young lady three times in one day. That’s a sys­tem that is fail­ing that in­di­vid­ual.”

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