By Dave Muoio / Mar 11, 2022
Sixteen people, including 12 doctors, will face prison time and hefty fines for their roles in a $250 million fraud scheme that exploited patients addicted to opioid painkillers, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday.
The Michigan- and Ohio-area defendants collectively distributed more than 6.6 million doses of medically unnecessary opioids to patients from 2007 to 2018 in exchange for unnecessary facet joint injections, a painful but highly reimbursed procedure that in some cases left the patients with lasting adverse conditions, according to court documents and evidence referenced by the DOJ.
“Health care professionals who exploit opioid addiction for financial gain do so at the risk of endangering their patients and undermining critical public health efforts to address the opioid epidemic,” Special Agent in Charge Mario Pinto of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (HHS OIG) said in a statement. “We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to ensure that bad actors are held accountable for such egregious disregard for patient safety and well-being.”
The DOJ said defendants were running a multistate network of pain clinics that served as “pill mills” for patients with addiction and those looking to resell the prescription drugs. Although the physicians tried to avoid the Drug Enforcement Administration’s notice by limiting their working hours, the DOJ said they were the highest prescribers of oxycodone in the state of Michigan and that their clinics were paid more for facet joint injections than any others in the country.