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Medicine

162 doctors are among 601 suspects US charges with health care fraud, opioid-related crimes

Nurses and pharmacists are also among those charged for alleged roles in prescribing and distributing addictive painkillers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 June, 2018, 12:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 June, 2018, 12:26am

The US Justice Department on Thursday announced charges against 601 people including doctors and nurses for taking part in health care fraud and opioid-related crimes that resulted in more than US$2 billion in losses.

“The perpetrators really are despicable and greedy people,” US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at a press conference.

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The arrests came as part of what the department said was the largest health care fraud takedown in US history and included 162 doctors and other suspects charged for their roles in prescribing and distributing addictive opioid painkillers.

“In many cases, doctors, nurses and pharmacists take advantage of people suffering from drug addiction in order to line their pockets,” US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “These are despicable crimes.”

The charges centred in part on schemes to bill the government health care programmes Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare as well as private insurers for medically unnecessary prescription drugs and compounded medications.

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The Justice Department also brought charges against medical professionals it said were contributing to the country’s opioid epidemic by participating in the unlawful distribution of prescription painkillers.

In 2016, 42,000 people in the United States died from opioid overdoses, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.