Doctors operating out of ‘Pill Mills’ has been a prime reason for the opioid epidemic in the US. Yet the days of freely-prescribed pain medication may be over soon. Teams of data analysts from the Justice Department are firing up their computers and are crunching data that should reveal the sources of illegal opioid prescriptions.

Dan Horn reported on the Justice Department’s latest initiative for the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“The data tells us where to look,” said Brian Benczkowski, the assistant U.S. attorney general who leads the Justice Department’s criminal division. “The data makes us more efficient, more effective.”

He said the information now available to law enforcement, including state and federal databases on prescriptions, allows agents to find the outliers who are giving patients unusually large amounts of pain medication.

Why does one podiatrist treat so many people with chronic foot pain? Why does one dentist pull so many teeth? The answer, prosecutors said, might be because they’re looking for reasons to prescribe pain medication.

Benczkowski wouldn’t disclose all the methods his team used, but he said Medicaid data and a combination of state and federal databases provide a better-than-ever look at who’s receiving and who’s approving prescription pain killers.

He said the bad actors are operating much as they did more than a decade ago, when so-called “pill mills” popped up all over the country, often in rural areas, and gave thousands of people easy access to high-powered opioids. Prescriptions drugs are a gateway for people to become addicted and then use street drugs including heroin and fentanyl.

Now, though, federal authorities can more easily find out what they’re up to.