Attorney General Sessions calls for stronger focus on doctors' role in opioid crisis

Jeff Sessions
“We’re prescribing way too many opioids,” Sessions told a gathering of the National Sheriffs’ Association in Washington, D.C. (Gage Skidmore/CC BY-SA 2.0)

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week called on sheriff's departments across the U.S. to keep their focus on doctors when it comes to tackling the opioid crisis. 

“We’re prescribing way too many opioids,” Sessions told a gathering of the National Sheriffs’ Association in Washington, D.C, on Thursday, USA Today reported.

Sessions touched on the role corrupt doctors have played in stoking the crisis. His speech came the same day federal officials announced five Pittsburgh-area doctors in were charged for giving opioids to addicted patients for cash at Redirections Treatment Advocates treatment clinics. 

Free Daily Newsletter

Like this story? Subscribe to FierceHealthcare!

The healthcare sector remains in flux as policy, regulation, technology and trends shape the market. FierceHealthcare subscribers rely on our suite of newsletters as their must-read source for the latest news, analysis and data impacting their world. Sign up today to get healthcare news and updates delivered to your inbox and read on the go.

Sessions urge police to focus their attention on doctors who may be illegally providing drugs to patients, The Washington Times reported.  “I hope you are keeping an eye on them,” Sessions said. “We are hearing too many concerns about treatment centers.”

RELATED: DEA to share prescription drug data with 50 attorneys general, crack down on drugmakers

Last month, Sessions announced the Drug Enforcement Administration has been making good on a promise to crackdown on opioid prescribers with the arrests of nearly 30 medical professionals in two months. That came after Sessions announced plans last year to ramp up investigations and prosecutions of medical professionals in opioid-related healthcare fraud cases in "hotspots" across the country.

The DEA also reached an agreement with 50 attorneys general to share prescription drug data with one another to support ongoing investigations.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been more than 630,000 deaths due to drug overdoses between 1999 and 2016. In 2016, 2 in 3 of those drug overdose deaths involved an opioid. About 115 American die every day from an opioid overdose.

RELATED: Attorney General Jeff Sessions says government will increase scrutiny on providers who prescribe opioids

The Trump administration has said it wants to reduce opioid prescriptions by a third within three years and finalized regulations last month meant to curb prescriptions.Doctors have indicated they are cutting back their opioid prescriptions.

In a recent survey conducted for BuzzFeed News by SERMO, 69% of doctors said they reduced prescriptions.

The survey echoed a report released in April from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science that found in 2017 the U.S. saw the volume of prescription opioids written by U.S. doctors decrease by 12%. It was the largest drop seen in the U.S. in 25 years.