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US Attorney General launches opioid fraud, abuse detection unit

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions launched a U.S. Department of Justice unit that will focus on opioid-related healthcare fraud using data to identify and prosecute individuals who are contributing to the opioid epidemic.

In a speech at a Columbus, Ohio, police academy, Sessions said the new opioid fraud and abuse detection unit pilot program will fund 12 assistant U.S. attorneys for a three-year term to investigate and prosecute fraud in the prescription of opioids, including pill mill schemes and pharmacies that unlawfully divert or dispense prescription opioids for illegitimate purposes.

Sessions said the prosecutors will work in conjunction with the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as state and local partners to prosecute doctors, pharmacies and medical providers who are contributing to the epidemic for their own profit.

The program will be implemented in parts of 12 states — Florida, Michigan, Alabama, Tennessee, Nevada, Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, California, North Carolina, and West Virginia.

"In the face of the worst drug crisis in our history, we need to use every lawful tool we have. But I'm convinced this is a winnable war," said Sessions.

Earlier in July, the attorney general disclosed plans to unveil a major crackdown on healthcare fraud regarding opioid treatment programs.