Feds employ data-driven early warning system in opioid fight

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The ache clinic tucked into the nook of a low-slung suburban strip mall was an open secret.

Sufferers would journey lots of of miles to see Dr. Andrzej Zielke, longing for what authorities described as a gentle move of prescriptions for the sorts of highly effective painkillers that ushered the nation into its worst drug disaster in historical past.

No less than considered one of Zielke’s sufferers died of an overdose, and prosecutors say others turned so depending on oxycodone and different opioids they might crowd his workplace, typically sleeping within the ready room. Some peddled their drugs close to tumble-down storefronts and on blighted road corners in habit-plagued elements of Allegheny County, the place deaths by drug overdose reached report ranges final yr.

However Robert Cessar, a longtime federal prosecutor, was unaware of Zielke till Justice Division officers handed him a binder of knowledge that, he stated, confirmed what capsule-seekers from as distant as Ohio and Virginia already knew. The physician who provided ozone remedy and natural ache cures was additionally prescribing extremely addictive narcotics to sufferers who didn’t want them, in accordance with an indictment charging him with conspiracy and unlawfully distributing managed substances.

Zielke denied he was overprescribing, telling AP he practiced various drugs and lots of of his sufferers stopped seeing him when he minimize down on ache drugs.

His indictment in October was the primary by a nationwide group of federal regulation enforcement officers that, armed with new entry to a broader array of prescription drug databases, Medicaid and Medicare figures, coroners’ data and different numbers compiled by the Justice Division, goals to cease fraudulent docs quicker than earlier than.

The division is offering a trove of knowledge to the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which pulls collectively authorities in 12 areas throughout the nation, that exhibits which docs are prescribing probably the most, how far sufferers will journey to see them and whether or not any have died inside 60 days of receiving one among their prescriptions, amongst different info.

Authorities have been going after so-referred to as “capsule mills” for years, however the brand new strategy brings further federal assets to bear towards the escalating epidemic. The place prosecutors would spend months or longer constructing a case by counting on erratic informants and solely restricted knowledge, the quantity-crunching by analysts in Washington supplies info they are saying lets them shortly zero in on a area’s…

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