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Opioid-related schemes and the role of whistleblowers in exposing such schemes

| Mar 29, 2021 | Whistleblowing |

Contrary to common perception, not all opioids are illicit drugs. Some opioids are legal and can be used as painkillers. The legal opioids include OxyContin, Fentanyl and Vicodin, while the most common illegal opioid is heroin.

Opioid-related schemes

There are instances where players in the healthcare industry have been involved in the underhand or fraudulent distribution of opioids. As stated earlier, opioids can be beneficial as pain relievers. However, they can also be used as dangerous drug substances.

Some companies have left channels that were used to illegally distribute drugs. When these companies are found guilty, fines imposed by the government can be quite hefty. Recently, Purdue Pharma has been forced to wind up due to the scale of fines from the government.

Purdue Pharma, an OxyContin maker, owes the government $11 billion due to its involvement in the distribution of OxyContin through a deliberate marketing scheme.

The role of the whistleblower

Opioid schemes are quite intricate. Therefore, the role of whistleblowers in exposing the scheme is vital. Many major opioid schemes were unearthed due to whistleblowers coming forward. There is no limitation on who a whistleblower could be within an organization. It could be a physician, nurse or anyone who has evidence of the opioid scheme.

Some health organizations have put profit at their patients’ expense. Prescribing opioids without clear safeguards can be quite disastrous. According to the CDC, more than 46,000 people died from opioid overdose in 2018, making up nearly 70% of all drug overdose deaths. Therefore, if you witness fraudulent incidents, it is important to expose such illegalities.

Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers are empowered to file a qui tam action. These are claims brought by the whistleblowers (relators) on behalf of the government. Once filed, no one else can file a similar claim, except the government that can take over the suit.

As these matters are quite technical, it is important to involve legal counsel early on to help ensure your claim is filed both accurately and efficiently.