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NC pill pushers among those targeted nationwide by new federal opioid program

A file photo shows OxyContin pills at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. Central North Carolina is one of a dozen regions across the country included in a pilot program for combating the nation’s opioid epidemic, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Wednesday.
A file photo shows OxyContin pills at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. Central North Carolina is one of a dozen regions across the country included in a pilot program for combating the nation’s opioid epidemic, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Wednesday. 2016 AP file photo

Central North Carolina is one of a dozen regions across the nation included in a pilot program for combating the nation’s opioid epidemic, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Wednesday.

The program will consist of an Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit tasked with analyzing data to help identify opioid-related fraud, along with a group of 12 attorneys who will investigate and prosecute related crimes. The prosecutors, one assigned to each region, will be funded for three years by the Department of Justice.

Sessions called out corrupt doctors and pharmacists contributing to the opioid epidemic as he made the announcement in Ohio.

“If you are a doctor illegally prescribing opioids for profit or a pharmacist letting these pills walk out the door onto the streets based on prescriptions you know are obtained under false pretenses, we are coming after you,” Sessions said in the speech. “We will reverse these devastating trends with every lawful tool we have.”

Other districts included in the program cover Maryland, Nevada, central Florida, eastern Michigan, northern Alabama, eastern Tennessee, eastern Kentucky, western Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, eastern California and southern West Virginia.

The announcement comes just over a month after Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law a bill to more closely regulate pain killer prescriptions.

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