Five Pennsylvania physicians were charged with health care fraud and unlawful distribution of controlled substances on May 3, 2018. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the five doctors allegedly issued illegal prescriptions for buprenorphine – an opioid used to treat addiction – while working for a drug treatment clinic located in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
All the doctors, who face a minimum of 10 years in prison, if found guilty, were working as contractors at the clinics. Besides, each could also be fined a maximum of $1.5 million. The health care embezzlement charge is a result of the submission of fraudulent payment claims by them to the Medicare or Medicaid to cover the costs of the illegally prescribed buprenorphine, which is sold under brand names Subutex and Suboxone. The accused have been identified as Dr. Krishan Kumar Aggarwal, Dr. Madhu Aggarwal, Dr. Parth Bharill, Dr. Cherian John and Dr. Michael Bummer.
The latest indictments are part of a series of charges that have been filed against various medical practitioners after the formation of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit in August 2017 by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The unit is an initiative by the Department of Justice to check opioid-related health care fraud by using data.
Lately, several health care fraud cases are being reported. In March 2018, a manager working at Pittsburgh clinic of the center was accused of dispensing buprenorphine and defrauding Medicaid. In February 2018, a Las Vegas doctor was also charged with illegal distribution of fentanyl and health care fraud.
Fighting opioid menace
Medical practitioners in the U.S. are adopting various malpractices to openly make opioids easily available to those who abuse them. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the citizens to be aware of the harmful health effects of misusing and abusing prescription opioids. Similarly, it is also important for doctors to understand the role they can play in curbing the ongoing opioid crisis, especially if they are a part of any addiction help center. People from different quarters need to come together to fight against this opioid menace.
Statistics indicate that opioid overdoses are a driving factor in the ever worsening opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 66 percent of overdose deaths involved an opioid in 2016. In the same year, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin, was five times higher than in 1999. The CDC data also shows that on an average, 115 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day.
Fortunately, opioid addiction is treatable with timely medical intervention. If a person is grappling with opioid use disorder, he/she should seek immediate professional help from a world-class drug addiction treatment rehab. One should not forget that substance use disorders can have life-threatening implications, if left untreated.