Maryland’s acting U.S. attorney has appointed an assistant prosecutor to head the office’s Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, part of a new U.S. Department of Justice pilot program announced earlier this month.
Rachel Yasser, an assistant with the office since 2008, will lead the project in Baltimore, acting Maryland U.S. Attorney Stephen M. Schenning said Wednesday. Yasser will coordinate with investigators from local, state and federal agencies to analyze data about prescriptions for opioids and flags physicians and pharmacies dispensing unusually large quantities.
Maryland is one of 12 districts participating in the pilot program, which targets areas hit hardest by the opioid crisis. The program funds prosecutors in each district focused on investigating and prosecuting health care fraud related to prescription opioids, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Maryland recently charged two doctors in state court with running “pill mills” that illegally distributed opioids and other controlled substances. Part of the investigation involved using U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration data to track the defendants’ prescription patterns.
In 2010, Maryland reported that 504 people died from heroin or opioid overdoses; by 2015, that number had more than doubled, to 1,089. The DEA reports 80 percent of individuals addicted to heroin became addicted to prescription drugs first.