Justice Department indicts Pittsburgh doctor with help of data analytics initiative

Department of Justice
The indictment of a Pittsburgh-area doctor marks the first under the DOJ's new Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit.

The Department of Justice has indicted a Pittsburgh-area doctor and charged him with unlawful distribution of opioids. The indictment marks the first under an initiative using prescriber data to target physicians contributing to the opioid crisis.

On the same day that the Trump Administration declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency, the DOJ announced its first indictment under the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which uses data analytics to uncover opioid fraud.

RELATED: Doctors, drugmakers face legal jeopardy as battle against opioid addiction heats up

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The 14-count indictment accuses Andrzej Kazimierz Zielke, M.D., of prescribing Schedule II narcotics “outside the usual course of professional practice and not for legitimate medical purpose.” Zielke is the owner of Medical Frontiers, a holistic pain management practice in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania.

The investigation grew out of information indicating pills obtained by a narcotics dealer had come from some of the large number of oxycodone prescriptions Zielke had written prescriptions for residents of McKeesport, Pennsylvania.

Western Pennsylvania is one of the 12 hot spots previously identified by Attorney General Jeff Sessions as areas of focus for federal prosecutors. Other states in the attorney general’s crosshairs include West Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Alabama, Tennessee, Nevada, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina and California.

RELATED: Attorney General Jeff Sessions targets medical professionals in 12 U.S. opioid epidemic ‘hot spots’

Sessions has made fighting healthcare fraud a priority for the Justice Department, with a strong focus on cases related to the distribution of opioids. In addition to the Pennsylvania indictment, the federal government recently sent a 71-year-old Kentucky doctor to prison for prescribing opioids without a legitimate medical purpose and for defrauding that state’s Medicaid program.

“Western Pennsylvania is experiencing some of the highest rates of overdose deaths in the nation,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song, who announced the indictment. “In response, we in law enforcement aggressively target drug traffickers—both those who distribute on the street, and those who traffic under the guise of physicians writing excessive prescriptions,” she added.

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