During a recent visit to Columbus, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) was cracking down on physicians, pharmacists, and others who were profiting by improperly and illegally prescribing opioids.
However, many of the initiatives that he described the federal government would be taking have actually been going on in Ohio for at least a decade as the state has waged its own battle against the opioid epidemic. Several years ago, the issue of prescription opioids abuse – both legal and legal – was the main “enemy” Ohio was focused on. But as the war has escalated, heroin and fentanyl have moved to the front of the line as the new enemy. However, none of the new initiatives that Session announced even address the heroin and fentanyl crisis.
In his announcement, Sessions described the creation of the Opioid Fraud Abuse Detection Unit. The focus of the unit will be to find pill mills and other opioid sellers, using a data-analytical system. Sessions also said that there would be a dozen federal prosecutors assigned to prosecute these sellers. One of those prosecutors will be located in Ohio.
Despite Ohio being named to the list, no one from DOJ has contacted the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, which already has a system in place for doing exactly what Sessions described his new unit would do. Several people interviewed about Session’s announcement felt that the only thing this new unit would be doing in Ohio is duplicating efforts which are in place and have been for some time. The state’s efforts appear to be working since there has been a drop each year to the number of prescriptions of opioids being written.
What hasn’t decreased – but instead has sharply increased – is the number of people who overdose each day on heroin and fentanyl, with more than 4,000 people suffering fatal overdoses just in 2016 alone.
After hearing about the announced DOJ plan, Attorney Boyk commented, “Getting illegal prescription opioids off the streets is a critical part of fighting the drug epidemic, but the DOJ also has to implement programs that will combat where that epidemic has shifted to and that is heroin and fentanyl.”