Attorney General Jeff Sessions (right) with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price speaks about opioid addiction during a news conference on July 13 at the Justice Department. | Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo
The Justice Department on Thursday launched a crackdown that in large part focuses on fraudulent opioid treatment programs.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions at a press conference described the effort as the largest of its kind in U.S. history, charging 412 people, including 56 physicians, with defrauding the federal government of $1.3 billion.
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Sessions said 120 people have been charged with opioid-related crimes. Nearly 300 providers are in the process of being barred from participating in federal health care programs, including Medicare and Medicaid.
“We will use every tool we have to stop criminals from exploiting vulnerable people and stealing our hard-earned tax dollars,” Sessions said.
The Justice Department’s action came on the heels of an announcement that Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals has agreed to pay $35 million to settle charges that it failed to notify the Drug Enforcement Agency of suspicious drug orders from 2008 to 2011. The settlement was the first that the government has secured with an opioid manufacturer.
Sessions was joined by top Trump administration officials, including HHS Secretary Tom Price and acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. Officials said the takedown involved more than 1,000 federal, state and local law enforcement personnel.
According to CDC data, opioid prescriptions are on the decline but opioid-involved overdose death rates continue to increase. Agency officials earlier this month said the amount of opioids prescribed in the country in 2015 was enough for every American to be medicated around the clock for three weeks.