The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania has asked more than 300 doctors to review their opioid prescriptions patterns, as part of its ongoing effort to combat the opioid epidemic. In a letter sent last week, U.S. Attorney David J. Freed informed each of the providers that their opioid prescribing patterns for Medicare Part D patients appears to be significantly different from peers within the same medical specialties. The U.S. Attorney refers the prescribers to educational materials on the opioid crisis prepared by the U.S, Drug Enforcement Administration; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service; and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“Beyond criminal and civil enforcement efforts, I am committed to help educate prescribers regarding the dangers of excessive opioid use and the consequences,” said U.S. Attorney Freed. “I strongly urge prescribers to utilize all resources available, including the Pennsylvania Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), to ensure that they are doing all they can to reduce serious prescription opioid abuse, while maintaining patient access to appropriate pain medications.”
A recent DEA report found that, in 2017, more than 5,450 people died in the Commonwealth from drug overdoses. That equates to 43 deaths per 100,000 Pennsylvanians or nearly twice the national average of 22 overdose deaths per 100,000 persons. Between 2015 and 2017 drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania increased 65 percent. In 2017, 1,093 Pennsylvanians died due to a prescription opioid overdose and 2,065 people died from heroin overdoses. The CDC notes that 3 out of 4 heroin users abused prescription opioids before turning to heroin.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has made no determination, at this time, that prescribers who receive these letters have violated the law. Nor is the U.S. Attorney suggesting that the prescriptions written are not medically appropriate.