The opioid crisis in the United States is a growing epidemic. Opioids, which are a family of drugs that include oxycodone, morphine, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), fentanyl and codeine (which is found in Tylenol No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4), are taking the lives of Americans at an alarming rate. Generally, such drugs are prescribed to relieve pain. But, sadly, they are too often illegally prescribed and obtained and therefore, misused.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1999 and 2017, more than 700,000 people have died from drug overdoses. Nearly 400,000 of those deaths were caused by overdoses involving opioids. The CDC also reveals that about 68 percent of the more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved opioids. On average, 130 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day.
Fraudsters are taking advantage of the nation’s addiction to opioids.
With so many people addicted to opioids, it provides criminals with great incentives to generate illegal profits. 52 year-old, Venkat Aachi is one such criminally-minded individual. As reported by Jason Green of The Mercury News this week, the Los Angeles-based doctor has pleaded guilty to illegally prescribing opioids and now faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Aachi’s sentencing is scheduled for July 1.
Hydrocodone was Aachi’s opioid of choice. It is commonly prescribed to relieve pain and cough. “Hydrocodone relieves pain by changing the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain,” explains MedlinePlus, “Hydrocodone relieves cough by decreasing activity in the part of the brain that causes coughing.” They also highlight the fact that hydrocodone can be habit forming and may cause serious or life-threatening breathing problems.
Hydrocodone is a culprit in many opioid deaths across America.
Citing CDC findings, Green reveals that the drug is one of the most commonly involved in prescription opioid overdoses throughout the United States. Of course, the dangers of hydrocodone didn’t stop Aachi from writing a number of fraudulent prescriptions between September 18, 2017 and July 2, 2018.
“In November 2017, one patient received a script for 90 hydrocodone-acetaminophen pills without a physical examination or a discussion about the patient’s pain or response to prior medication,” reports Green, “Authorities said Aachi also faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for submitting to an insurance company a false and fraudulent claim for payment for healthcare benefits, items and services.”
At present, Aachi is free on bail.
Indicted in October of 2018, he was originally charged with six counts of distributing drugs outside the scope of professional practice and one count of health care fraud. The number of individuals who have either overdosed or been negatively impacted by their illegally-obtained prescriptions from Aachi is unknown.
Are you an attorney who is currently trying a health care fraud case?
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