“This is the most fraud, the most defendants, and the most doctors ever charged in a single operation,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
More than 600 people within 58 federal districts have been charged by the U.S. government for their involvement in “multi-billion-dollar profit-making schemes involving opioid painkillers,” CBS News reported.
On Thursday, June 28, the U.S. Justice Department announced the charges, which have to do with billing government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, as well as private insurers, for prescription medications that have been deemed medically unnecessary.
These actions resulted in more than $2 billion in losses, the Justice Department and the Department of Health and Human Services states.
Of those charged, 165 were doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.
According to Gizmodo, those 165 individuals contributed to the opioid crisis by illegally prescribing 13 million doses of opioids, as well as other prescription medications, to “vulnerable patients.”
“This is the most fraud, the most defendants, and the most doctors ever charged in a single operation—and we have evidence that our ongoing work has stopped or prevented billions of dollars’ worth of fraud,” Sessions said in his statement.
Gizmodo noted that in addition to medical professionals, the defendants include pharmacy owners, patient recruiters and even patients. It is believed these people provided doctors with patient information in exchange for “cash kickbacks.”
Then, doctors are believed to have submitted claims to insurance companies for unnecessary treatments that patients never actually received. Instead, pharmacies utilized the fraudulent prescriptions to build up a larger supply of opioids, which they then sold to drug couriers.
The Department of Justice also touched on other alleged schemes in various states. In Tennessee, five people were charged with fraudulently billing medical equipment, resulting in a loss of $2.5 million. In Brooklyn, New York, a $7 million scheme involved referring patients to an ambulette company.
In Illinois, 21 people face charges for “defrauding insurers via fake home health and dental services.”
Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services is doing its part, according to Gizmodo. In the past year, the department has banned 2,700 people from taking part in federal health programs, including 587 health care providers.