NJ.com: Dirty doctors, Russian mafia fueling prescription drug and heroin abuse in N.J., investigation finds


The N.J. State Commission of Investigation said in a report released today that criminals and organized crime are fueling the state's rise of prescription drug and heroin abuse. (Ed Murray/The Star-Ledger)

Christopher Baxter/The Star-LedgerBy Christopher Baxter/The Star-Ledger 
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on July 10, 2013 at 9:23 AM, updated July 10, 2013 at 11:20 AM

TRENTON — The rapid rise of prescription drug and heroin abuse in New Jersey is being fueled by shady, black-market entrepreneurs and corrupt doctors, some of whom have ties to organized crime, the State Commission of Investigation said in a report released today.

In one scheme, homeless Medicaid recipients and drug addicts in downtown Newark were regularly taken in vans to strip mall "medical centers," where they were given unnecessary prescriptions for painkillers that they could use or sell on the street.

The bills went to government health insurance, which "funneled a fortune in fraudulent Medicaid reimbursements into the bank accounts of the hidden entrepreneurs the doctor fronted for — associates of Russian organized crime," according to the report.

"Staggering amounts of legitimate medicines manufactured by major pharmaceutical companies and intended for those needing relief from the pain of disease and injury have been diverted into criminal enterprises founded on drug abuse and addiction," the report said.

The report, "Scenes From An Epidemic," is the result of an investigation initiated two years ago by the commission with a public hearing that focused new attention on prescription drug abuse and how it was fueling a new heroin epidemic.

The commission — established in 1968 as an independent watchdog over organized crime, corruption and government waste — will hold a news conference this morning to discuss its findings and recommendations.

The report called for a series of reforms including stronger oversight of the medical community, tougher penalties for prescription drug diversion and better regulation of medical practice ownership and management.

The report also recommended the creation of a statewide task force to lead major prescription drug investigations, the improvement of the state's prescription drug monitoring program and amendments to make it easier to prosecute possession of heroin with intent to distribute.