Attorney General Jeff Sessions, responding to “the worst drug crisis” in U.S. history, announced a federal crackdown targeting opioid pill mills and crooked physicians.
A new federal data analysis program will track prescriptions and pharmacies, while a dozen experienced prosecutors will set up shop in locations around the country to make cases, the nation’s top prosecutor promised Wednesday.
“If you are a doctor illegally prescribing opioids for profit or a pharmacist letting these pills walk out the door … we are coming after you,” Sessions declared in his Ohio speech.
“We will reverse these devastating trends with every tool we have.”
The Buckeye State is among the worst hit in the nation by the lethal opioid explosion, with eight residents overdosing daily.
Sessions said the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit will also operate in hard-hit areas of Florida, Michigan, Alabama, Tennessee, Nevada, Kenutcky, Maryland, Pennsylvania, California, North Carolina and West Virginia.
More than 52,000 Americans died in 2015 from drug overdoses. Sessions said estimates indicate the figure for last year was expected to approach 60,000, the highest number in American history.
The regional prosecutors will coordinate their efforts with the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Health and Human Services in identifying and arresting violators.
According to Sessions, the data analysis program should expose doctors writing opioid prescriptions at a faster rate than their peers and identify pharmacies dispensing disproportionate numbers of pills.
“These prosecutors will help us target and prosecute these doctors, pharmacies and medical providers who are furthering this epidemic to line their pockets,” said Sessions.
The new plan marks a reversal of policies from the Obama Administration, when non-violent drug crime prosecutions dropped dramatically and hundreds of federal jail terms for non-violent drug crimes were commuted.
“In the face of the worst drug crisis in our history, we need to use every lawful tool we have,” said Sessions. “But I’m convinced this is a winnable law.”