Categorized | Colorado News, National News, News

New Dynamic Introduced in Overdose Deaths

Jason Dunn, Colorado’s new U.S. attorney, has made curtailing the state’s opioid epidemic a top focus of his office, encouraging law enforcement in the state to investigate overdose deaths as homicides.  “You have dealers who either know they are selling fentanyl instead of heroin or know that it has already caused death and continue to sell it,” Dunn said.  “We think they’ve met the required element that they can be charged.”

He is also digging into data on doctors and nurses who prescribe unusually large quantities of opioid painkillers, with an eye toward prosecuting those who are illegally diverting the drugs and, he feels, adding to the scourge of heroin. Dunn goes on to say,  “… There’s a three-drug cocktail of opioids that apparently enhances the opioid high. We look at which doctors are prescribing that three-drug cocktail the most. Because there’s really no reason you would do it other than for illegitimate purposes. So we’re using that data and we’re starting to see some success with that.”

The 560 overdose deaths in Colorado in 2017 provide a strong stimulus for his efforts. “We created a task force within our office that’s both criminal and civil,” Dunn said. “The civil side is really interesting because it’s focused on the diversion of opioids — from doctors, pharmacies, nurse practitioners. Clearly, if we can get people to stop abusing prescription opioids, then we can have a huge impact on the heroin problem.”

Federal prosecutors in Colorado have been combing through Medicare and Medicaid databases, as well as the records of Tricare, the military health insurance program, to find out which medical professionals are prescribing the most opioids, including OxyContin, in the state. They are also looking to see if they have patients who are traveling long distances, an indication that a person might be seeking out drugs for illicit reasons.

It will be interesting to see what impact this may have on prescribing patterns.

Source: The Colorado Sun



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