As the government’s response to the opioid epidemic continues to make national headlines, law enforcement authorities in North Carolina are taking aggressive action to combat the over-prescription and diversion of opioid medications within the state’s borders. In addition to the federal Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit created by the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this year, over the summer, Governor Roy Cooper announced a new statewide Opioid Action Plan that will focus on combatting the rising number of annual opioid-related fatalities in North Carolina.
According to a press release from the Office of the Governor:
“Opioid overdose has claimed more than 12,000 lives in North Carolina since 1999, with opioid-related overdoses deaths up more than 800 percent in the state through 2016. Gov. Cooper today joined Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D., to announce a plan to fight opioid abuse and overdose deaths. The plan is the product of input from many partners and sets strategies to reduce the number of deaths and measure progress.”
North Carolina’s New Opioid Action Plan
North Carolina’s Opioid Action Plan includes measures that are focused on treatment and community awareness as well as those that are focused on law enforcement. As outlined on the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ website, some of the key strategies that the state will be using to combat opioid fraud and abuse include:
- Coordinating the state’s infrastructure to tackle the opioid crisis.
- Reducing the oversupply of prescription opioids.
- Reducing the diversion of prescription drugs and the flow of illicit drugs.
Over the next five years, the State’s goal is to reduce the number of unintentional opioid-related deaths and opioid emergency room visits by 20 percent, and to spur a decreasing trend in:
- The total number of opioid pills dispensed,
- The number of patients who receive opioid prescriptions from multiple providers, and
- The number of patients who receive at least one opioid and one benzodiazepine prescription in the same day.
What the Opioid Action Plan Means for Healthcare Providers in North Carolina
From Medicare audits to state and federal law enforcement initiatives, healthcare providers in North Carolina are already subject to intense scrutiny with respect to their prescription and billing practices. With the current national focus on combatting the effects of overdose and illegal use of opioid medications, healthcare providers who prescribe and dispense opioid medications need to be cognizant of the risks of facing a law enforcement investigation, and they must be prepared to demonstrate their compliance with the law in the event of a state or federal inquiry. The law imposes both civil and criminal penalties for Medicare fraud and prescription drug-related offenses; and, with penalties including fines, recoupments, treble damages, program exclusion and even incarceration, providers who are facing audits and investigations for opioid-related issues need to take their circumstances extremely seriously.
Speak with a Raleigh Drug Crime Lawyer in Confidence
Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan, PLLC is a Raleigh law firm that represents healthcare providers and other clients in state and federal criminal matters. If your business or practice is under investigation for prescription drug fraud or any other opioid-related offense, we encourage you to call (919) 833-3114 or contact us online promptly for a confidential consultation.