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Dave Aronberg Talks How to Fight Fraud in Treatment Industry

Dave Aronberg Talks How to Fight Fraud in Treatment Industry

8 months ago, Florida was home to 953 licensed drug treatment centers, and 207 were in Palm Beach County. As of April 1, there are now 185 in Palm Beach, with 771 in the whole state. This decrease is due to the crackdown on fraud by Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office, which has led to 45 arrests in the last year and a half. So far, those arrests have led to 16 convictions. For State Attorney Dave Aronberg there is no sign of slowing down.

Recently, Dave Aronberg spoke with Opioid Watch to talk about the work his office has been doing to try and strengthen the addiction treatment industry. Chief Assistant State Attorney Alan Johnson also sat down to talk about how Palm Beach County is fighting to protect those who are coming to Florida for help. Johnson heads the office’s Sober Homes Task Force.

Dave Aronberg VS Purdue Pharma

 According to Aronberg, he got involved with opioid-related issues back in 2001, when he was an assistant attorney general. Aronberg says he was asked by his boss, Bob Butterworth, to investigate Purdue Pharma. This Big Pharma giant is the producer of OxyContin. This powerful prescription opioid has been credited with making a heavy contribution to the opioid crisis. Dave Aronberg was to examine the marketing practices of Purdue Pharma, and is quoted in the interview transcript stating:

“I believe we were one of the first in the country.”

Of course, now Purdue Pharma is one of many big name pharmaceutical companies being accused in lawsuits across America. In fact, Delray Beach, Florida recently filed its own case against the company.

When asked about what he found, Aronberg said that Purdue was marketing the product like it was Advil. Purdue has been repeatedly accused of pushing this product as if it was far less dangerous than it actually was. In 2002, Dave Aronberg was elected to state senate, and shortly afterward the case against Purdue was settled. In the edited interview transcript, Aronberg is quoted:

“Purdue also offered $2 million to the state to establish its first prescription drug monitoring program. I worked in the state senate to get the PDMP enacted into law. But some conservatives refused to go along. They thought it was Big Government. So Purdue’s $2 million went away, because the offer expired. We didn’t get the PDMP till 2011. By then the carnage was horrific.”

Furthermore, Opioid Watch notes that a Purdue spokesperson confirmed that the state failed to implement a PDMP by July 1, 2004, which was the expiration of the companies offer.

Dave Aronberg Goes to Congress

In December of 2017, Aronberg went in front of Congress to testify concerning fraud and abuse in the addiction treatment industry. In this meeting, they discussed various issues with shady facility operators in Florida and made suggestions on how the law could step in to change it and protect patients. The interview transcript quotes Aronberg:

“In recent years, we’ve had an influx of unscrupulous operators who enrich themselves by exploiting those in recovery. As a consequence, we’re attracting thousands of young people from throughout the country into fraudulent rehab centers. (We’re talking about some, not all. There are good rehab centers, too.)”

Again, Aronberg found himself at battle with shady marketing practices. While investigating the treatment industry, Aronberg’s office discovered illegal operations that not only manipulated insurance providers but put patients at extreme risk.

From patient brokering, where illicit actors would sell patients with insurance to the highest bidders, to illegal kickback schemes being run by sober homes to outpatient treatment programs. Chief Assistant State Attorney Alan Johnson added information about the exploitation of urine analysis costs, and even some programs that began billing insurers for allergy and DNA testing. Aronberg states:

“We have a doctor who billed $7 million in nine months for allergy tests.”

Needless to say, the task force and state officials had their work cut out for them.

The ACA, ADA, and FHA

When talking about the many scams being run by various illegitimate businesses, the conversation came back to insurance and how these cons run. Here Dave Aronberg talks about his beliefs on how the law should step in and help restructure the current system.

“Number one: Change the Affordable Care Act’s fee reimbursement model to an outcome-based reimbursement model. Where the good providers are rewarded and the bad ones are paid less. Right now, the opposite occurs, so the more times you fail, the more money you get. There’s an incentive for more services and for more relapse. That shouldn’t be.”

After talking about the issues with the ACA, he talked about the ADA and FHA.

“The second change we need is this: the Americans with Disabilities Act and Federal Housing Act have been misused and exploited by bad actors who own flophouses.”

He went on to say,

  “Local governments are largely prohibited from overseeing the sober home industry. If they want to require mandatory inspections, certifications, and registrations, they’re likely prohibited under federal law.”

In essence, Aronberg believes the law should allow local governments to create their own guidelines for health, safety and the general welfare of the patients. None of these demands seems outlandish, and with reasonable regulation, the reputable and effective providers in this industry can continue to best serve the South Florida recovery community.

Aronberg also points out that the problem is not only in Florida. Recently, he went to Orange County, California to meet with officials dealing with the same situation. Next for Dave Aronberg is leading the national task force of 34 prosecutors in 30 states. Their goal is to produce a working paper for setting best practices for prosecutors all over America concerning these issues. The task force also intends to make suggestions for changes to federal and state laws.

What might be most surprising though is the mention of harm reduction strategies?

“It’s about prevention, drug treatment, and innovative strategies. I think it will be powerful because it’s going to be prosecutors talking about needle exchanges and disposal and safe injection sites. People assume prosecutors are going to be focusing only on mandatory minimums and longer sentences. That’s not what this is about. I think it’s going to surprise people.”

While needle exchanges and safe injection sites have been proposed in numerous states, it is not the most popular idea. San Francisco is actually on track to open the first safe injection site in America, with Philadelphia not far behind, and Seattle and Baltimore in the conversation as well.

With Aronberg and the task force working to make a difference, hopefully, we will see the right change soon. We hope it will make the recovery community stronger as a whole. Reputable and respected providers are also doing their part to refine their practices while implementing innovative and effective resources to ensure that those who with drug or alcohol addiction always have a safe place in Palm Beach County to get the help they need. With the opioid crisis ongoing, having real resources for opioid treatment is still an essential part of overcoming the problem.

Palm Healthcare Company is a leader in holistic addiction treatment with over 20 years of helping people from all over the country heal mind, body and spirit. Providing safe and comprehensive care should always be a focus in the effort to overcome the drug problem, and preservation of life should always be a priority. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

Opioid Makers Will Soon Face New Justice Department Task Force

Opioid Makers Will Soon Face New Justice Department Task Force

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made an announcement at a news conference Tuesday that the Justice Department will be creating a new task force to pursue the makers and distributors of prescription opioids. It seems that beyond pursuing new restrictions being put on prescriptions, there will be a more intentional focus on Big Pharma and those who many believe have made the opioid crisis possible.

Jeff Sessions said the task force will “examine existing state and local government lawsuits against opioid manufacturers to determine if we can be of assistance.”

Meanwhile, Sessions also included the Justice Department is going to be backing a lawsuit in Ohio against major prescription opioid makers.

Ohio VS Opioid Makers Lawsuit

In truth, this lawsuit isn’t just about the state of Ohio. It consolidates more than 400 complaints by cities, counties and Native American tribes nationwide. Buckeye Nation has definitely been hit hard by the opioid crisis, but for now, the stage is set here for a massive effort against questionable practices from opioid makers.

The lawsuit that solicits the Justice Departments attention is pending in Federal District Court in Cleveland. It goes after various companies for using misleading marketing to promote prescription opioids, including:

  • Manufacturers
  • Distributors
  • Dispensers

The lawsuit also accuses the defendants of:

  • Downplaying the risk of addiction to these drugs
  • Failing to report suspicious orders by consumers, which would indicate the drugs were being abused

Furthermore, there are some big names in Big Pharma being listed as defendants, including:

  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Purdue Pharma
  • Teva Pharmaceuticals

The suit is also going after large distributors, such as:

  • McKesson
  • Cardinal Health

Not to mention pharmacy chains like:

  • CVS
  • Walgreens
  • Rite Aid

So how will the Justice Department be engaging in the current lawsuit? How will this new development impact the outcome of the case?

For more important information on the dangers of prescription drugs, download our

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Statement of Interest Against Opioid Makers

During the press briefing, Sessions explained that the Justice Department plans to file what is called a “statement of interest” in the Ohio lawsuit. This is a technique that past administrations typically would only resort to in cases that directly affect the federal government’s interests, such as diplomacy and national security.

However, with the intensity of the opioid crisis being what it is, it is perfectly understandable to make it such a high priority for the current administration to get involved with. So far, recovery advocates have been largely unimpressed with the half-measures that have been presented thus far with the Trump administration to address the issue.

By invoking the statement of interest, the attorney general is legally able to argue on behalf of the government’s interest in any court in the country. However, it does not make the government a plaintiff. All things considered, Sessions said his department will use criminal and civil penalties. He states,

 “We will use whatever tools we have to hold people accountable for breaking our laws.”

Which is quite a statement, considering it isn’t at all common for criminal charges to be brought against Big Pharma.

The Devil Is in the Data

What brought the Justice Department into this began with a discussion on access to certain data. This past Monday, lawyers for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) came to the Ohio courtroom to discuss how much data they would share about the national distribution of painkillers.

The DEA said it would only provide two years of information in the case, asserting that the agency did not want to compromise ongoing criminal investigations. However, Judge Dan Aaron Polster’s request is to provide the sides with nine years of data. He said the agency has until next Monday to decide whether it will comply. This data can assist in determining:

  • The number of pills distributed
  • The locations
  • The distributors

This information could be crucial in allocating liability.

Richard Fields, a lawyer who represents state attorneys general and sovereign Native American nations in opioid litigation, predicts that the statement of interest from the Justice Department “will help unlock this data so that we can hold manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies accountable for flooding communities with pills.”

Therefore, it appears Sessions is going to be taking some big steps toward calling out Big Pharma for their involvement in the opioid crisis. Sessions says the government will be taking a hard look at doctors who overprescribe prescription painkillers. Even legal drugs like these too often lead to addiction and abuse of illegal drugs like heroin.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says he believes this is a game changer. With all the suffering communities in Ohio have seen over the past several years, we can only hope.

Holding Big Pharma accountable is a huge step. Nevertheless, we should also highlight the need for state and community officials to promote safe and effective addiction treatment. Innovative and holistic recovery programs can make a dramatic difference in helping heal communities. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

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