On May 4, 2022, United States Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. announced the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2022 Opioid Enforcement Action, highlighting the department’s efforts. While enforcement actions related to COVID-19 and HIPAA breaches have received significant attention, the opioid epidemic continues. Mr. Polite noted that in the last year alone, over 75,000 people in the United States died by overdose.
Mr. Polite highlighted the progress and successes of the department (and associated law enforcement agencies) related to its enforcement action. He explained that fourteen individuals were charged across eight federal districts for crimes related to distributing prescription opioids. Twelve out of the fourteen individuals were medical professionals. One of the medical providers was a Kentucky dentist, whose patient allegedly died because of morphine prescribed by the dentist.
Besides discussing the successes of the department, Mr. Polite also praised the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force. The ARPO was created about three years ago as a collaborative initiative that includes state and federal government agencies and partners throughout Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and other states. According to Mr. Polite, “[ARPO] is designed to swiftly and effectively prosecute medical professionals and others involved in the illegal prescription and distribution of opioids.”
Since its creation, ARPO has charged at least one hundred individuals related to unlawful prescription opioid distribution. Over half of those charged were medical professionals or prescribers. The government alleges these individuals allegedly issued prescriptions for over one hundred million opioid pills. So far, sixty individuals have been convicted.
Mr. Polite’s remarks are a reminder to medical professionals that the government continues to use its vast resources and cross-agency collaborations for opioid enforcement actions. According to Mr. Polite: “Our work sends a clear message: medical professionals who violate their oath to do no harm, and instead, exploit vulnerable patients struggling with addiction will be held accountable.”
The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with white-collar criminal investigations and health care fraud investigations. If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.