What do Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have in common? A huge percentage of narcotic painkiller prescriptions per capita. If you live in Georgia, Maine, Pennsylvania or Rhode Island don’t celebrate just yet, you have significant addiction problems too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these states have opioid drug use rates that are as much as three times higher than those of other states.
And where do these dangerous drugs often come from? Pill mills.
If you think that higher accident rates, pain or cancer rates may account for the difference between states, the CDC says no.
What most concerns us is the findings by the CDC that opioid drug use has almost quadrupled between 2008 and 2014. Higher drug usage rates mean more drug abuse and patient deaths.
There will always be legitimate uses for prescription painkillers. Much of the increased usage, however, is tied to drug abuse. And it is often older adults (over 40) and women who abuse these particular drugs the most. According to the CDC, “Prescription opioid use varies according to age, gender, and ethnicity:
- Older adults (aged 40 years and older) are more likely to use prescription opioids than adults aged 20 – 39.
- Women are more likely to use prescription opioids than men.
- Non-Hispanic whites are more likely to use prescription opioids than Hispanics. There are no significant differences in prescription opioid use between non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks”
We said above that much of these opioid painkillers are coming from pill mills. The CDC backs that up and says that just 15% come from drug dealers.
In February of 2015, we wrote about one pill mill in Detroit run by Dr. Hussein “Sam” Awada. According to a DEA affidavit, Awada prescribed an undercover operative Vicodin and Roxicodone even after a medical screening showed there was nothing wrong with the patient and the operative told the doctor he was already buying street narcotics.
Who pays for all these drugs? Usually it is Medicare or Medicaid. In other words, tax dollars.
Lest you think that these pill mills are small little store front operations, in Dr. Awada’s case the feds say he billed Medicare over $11 million in a five year period and that doesn’t include the private insurance payments and the tons of cash payments. Most of the other pill mills we have encountered have grossed well over a million per year too.
If you are outraged about all this greed, there is more.
The worst thing about pill mills is the misery they spread throughout our communities. Thousands of lives are ruined each years and untold families destroyed by drug addiction. The crimes that these addictions spawn also takes a toll on the community.
Pill Mills and Whistleblower Awards
The feds and states have been cracking down on pill mills but they can’t do it alone. For years, the government’s primary weapon against healthcare fraud has been the False Claims Act. Passed during the U.S. Civil War, this law allows ordinary people to file a complaint in federal court against anyone defrauding Medicare or Medicaid. The person filing the complaint – called a “relator” or whistleblower – can earn a percentage of whatever the government ultimately collects from the wrongdoers. With pill mills pulling in millions, the awards can be significant. (Our whistleblower clients have raked in over $100 million in just the last five years!)
To qualify for an award, one must have inside (non public) information. Present and former healthcare professionals working in pill mills are ideal whistleblowers. Ditto for patient recruiters and even pharmacists.
Not only do whistleblowers have the potential to earn a significant award, they are also doing the right thing for the community. As a former EMT and police officer, I have encountered hundreds of people addicted to drugs (hard drugs, not marijuana.) Most of them will tell you they want to quit. Doctors and clinics that flood the market with cheap, taxpayer funded narcotics are not helping anyone. They are merely lining their pockets at our expense and ruining our communities.
If you have information about illegal pill mills or any other healthcare fraud, call us. All inquiries are protected by the attorney – client privilege and kept confidential. We can help you evaluate whether or not you have a case.
Worried that you may have some liability because you acted as a patient recruiter or worker in one of these clinics? We can confidentially approach prosecutors before any case is filed. In our experience, the government is much more interested in the doctors than those that had a small role and then decided to come clean.
For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (414) 704-6731 (direct).
MahanyLaw – America’s Whistleblower Lawyers