WASHINGTON: Three Indian-American physicians from Pennsylvania have been charged with health care fraud and illegal distribution of buprenorphine -- medication for opioid addiction treatment.
The physicians -- Dr. Krishan Kumar Aggarwal, 73, Dr. Madhu Aggarwal, 68, and Dr. Parth Bharill, 69 -- are part of the Redirections Treatment Advocates, an opioid addiction treatment practice with offices in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The indictments alleged that the doctors, working as contractors at various locations, created and distributed unlawful prescriptions for buprenorphine, known as Subutex and Suboxone, a drug that should be used to treat individuals with addiction.
They were also charged with conspiracy to unlawfully distribute buprenorphine.
The three have also been charged with health care fraud for allegedly causing fraudulent claims to be submitted to Medicare or Medicaid for payments to cover the costs of the unlawfully prescribed buprenorphine.
Dr. Cherian John, 65, and Dr. Michael Bummer -- both contractors were indicted for similar charges.
All of them face maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of USD 250,000 for each of the counts charging unlawfully dispensing Schedule III controlled substances.
The indictments came as part of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit created by Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year.
The unit uses data to target opioid-related health care fraud.
"Today, we are facing the worst drug crisis in American history, with one American dying of a drug overdose every nine minutes," Sessions said.
"It's incredible but true that some of our trusted medical professionals have chosen to violate their oaths and exploit this crisis for profit," he said.
Last summer, Sessions said he sent a dozen of the top federal prosecutors to focus solely on the problem of opioid-related health care fraud in places where the epidemic was at its worst-including Western Pennsylvania.
"These cases cut off the supply of drugs and stop fraudsters from exploiting vulnerable people. Our prosecutors began issuing indictments back in October, and today we bring even more charges against those who allegedly defrauded the taxpayer while diverting potentially addictive drugs," Sessions said.