New England task force targets doctors overprescribing opioids

  • Hydrocodone acetaminophen tablets lying on a prescription form. Hydrocodone is a popular prescription semi-synthetic opioid that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Hydrocodone is said to be one of the most common recreational prescription drugs in America. Roel Smart

Monitor source
Published: 6/29/2022 4:30:28 PM

After success in the Appalachian Region of the country, the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division is launching similar efforts to combat the opioid epidemic in Northern New England. 

The New England Prescription Opioid Strike Force, is a joint law enforcement effort, that will focus on prosecuting medical providers who oversubscribe and profit from excessive opioid use. 

With help from state and federal agencies in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine, the operation will be based in Concord. Four prosecutors are assigned to the division, according to Kenneth Polite, the assistant attorney general for the U.S. Criminal Division. 

“The creation of the New England Prescription Opioid Strike Force further strengthens our important cooperation with partners in the region to hold accountable any practitioner who recklessly distributes opioid medications,” said Anne Milgram, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in a press release. 

The Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, which was created in 2018, has charged 111 defendants for issuing prescriptions resulting in over 115,000,000 pills distributed, with over 60 convictions. Northern New England was identified as the next expansion point, due to the success of this program. 

The strike force turns attention to providers who distribute prescription drugs, whether that be physicians, pharmacists or dentists. 

Between June of 2020 and 2021, the CDC estimates 101,263 people died due to drug overdoses. The opioid endemic is now in a “third wave” with increases in deaths involving synthetic opioids, like fentanyl.

New Hampshire – once one of the hardest-hit states for its number of fatal overdoses – emerged as one of four states to see a decrease in drug-related deaths, according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. 

“This data solidifies New Hampshire’s track record as a nationwide leader in bucking the national trends and saving lives,” officials said Wednesday. 


MICHAELA TOWFIGHI

Michaela Towfighi is a Report for America corps member covering the Two New Hampshires for the Monitor. She graduated from Duke University with a degree in public policy and journalism and media studies in 2022. At Duke she covered education, COVID-19, the 2020 election and helped edit stories about the Durham County Courthouse for The 9th Street Journal and the triangle area's alt-weekly Indy Week. Her story about a family grappling with a delayed trial for a fatal car accident in Concord won first place in Duke’s Melcher Family Award for Excellence in Journalism. Towfighi is an American expat who calls London, England, home despite being born in Boston.



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