Fifty-eight people were charged following a healthcare fraud enforcement operation coordinated by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Texas Health Care Fraud Unit, a statement said Wednesday.
The operation resulted in the 58 individuals, which included doctors and pharmacists, being charged in 21 cases of healthcare fraud, NBC 5 reported.
The report said seven companies in North Texas, including BioFlex Medical in Dallas, were also named by investigators.
The DOJ said investigators also discovered that the fraud schemes resulted in the loss of $66 million and 6.2 million pills.
“They are making money by prescribing poison to people in the grips of addiction, that is no different than dropping poison into someone’s cup at a dinner party,” said John Bash, U.S. district attorney for Western Texas.
The DOJ statement read:
The charges announced today aggressively target schemes billing Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE (a health insurance program for members and veterans of the armed forces and their families), Department of Labor-Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs, and private insurance companies for medically unnecessary prescription drugs and compounded medications that often were never even purchased and/or distributed to beneficiaries.
The charges also involve individuals contributing to the opioid epidemic, with a particular focus on medical professionals allegedly involved in the unlawful distribution of opioids and other prescription narcotics, a particular focus for the Department.
The arrests come a few weeks after charges were filed against dozens of individuals in Houston, Texas, for their alleged participation in a trafficking network that diverted more than 23 million oxycodone, hydrocodone, and carisoprodol pills to places as far away as Boston, Massachusetts.
“The charges allege participating doctors, medical professionals and pharmacies knew the prescriptions had no legitimate medical purpose and were outside the usual course of professional practice,” according to an August 28 press release from the DOJ’s Southern District of Texas.
At a press conference Wednesday, U.S. attorney Joseph D. Brown of the Eastern District of Texas noted that “every dollar stolen from Medicare through fraud comes out of the pocket of taxpayers.”
“These are real costs that help drive up the cost of medical services for everyone. It is important that there be real consequences for those who cheat the system,” he concluded.
However, U.S. attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas said his state is dedicated to ending the corruption in the healthcare industry.
Sadly, opioid proliferation is nothing new to Americans. What is new, is the reinforced fight being taken to dirty doctors and shady pharmacists. Texas may have four U.S. Attorneys, but we are focused on one health care mission: shutting down pills mills and rooting out corruption in health care. From Lufkin to Laredo and Dallas to Del Rio, one of us will shut these operations down.
Local news outlets said that among those charged were pharmacy owners, chiropractors, pharmacists, and nurse practitioners. Additionally, 20 other individuals, who worked as accountants and sales representatives, were charged for their role in diverting the opioids.