DOJ to target physicians in an effort to temper opioid epidemic


As part of an effort to fight the opioid epidemic, the Justice Department is instructing state prosecutors to target physicians with high prescribing rates.

This week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch will send a memo to all US attorney's offices instructing prosecutors across the country to share information on physicians with a history of overprescribing opioids in a motion to track down possible distribution schemes, according to a USA Today article. Lynch also asked prosecutors to coordinate with public health officials in order to incorporate treatment along with enforcement.

“I’m not calling anybody out, because I think the people who look at this problem realize quickly how devastating it has been to families, to communities, to public health dollars, to law enforcement resources,” Lynch told USA Today. “There is no one magic bullet for this.”

The White House also indicated that as part of Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, the DOJ will announce plans to strengthen Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) across the country, according to an announcement.

In a speech at the University of Kentucky on Tuesday, Lynch said better data is the "crucial ingredient" to curbing the opioid epidemic, adding that she has issued a letter to state governors calling on them to adopt PDMP best practices modeled after the work done in Kentucky, and share that information with the DOJ as well as neighboring states. 

A survey released earlier this year showed that doctors believe overprescribing physicians are one of the leading causes of the country’s opioid epidemic. Daniel Levinson, inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services has pointed to overprescribing as a major concern within Medicare Part D, where spending on commonly abused opioids has increased 165% between 2006 and 2015. In some parts of the country, overprescribing physicians have been charged with murder.