By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On December 6, 2017, three nurse practitioners and a doctor were arrested following an Alabama federal grand jury indictment accusing them of operating a “pill mill.” According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), all four allegedly dispensed controlled substances inappropriately, unlawfully and for non-medical reasons.
The Alleged Pill Mill.
The nurse practitioners and physician allegedly prescribed opioids including fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone and hydromorphone on a monthly basis for years, according to the indictment. They then allegedly billed health care providers for related unnecessary patient examinations.
“[The four defendants] did knowingly and intentionally conspire to distribute and dispense and cause to be distributed and dispensed mixtures and substances containing detectable amounts of controlled substances by issuing and causing prescriptions for those substances outside the usual course of professional medical practice and for no legitimate medical purposes, through the operation of a pill mill,” the indictment stated.
Prosecutors alleged the medical personnel diagnosed patients at the Alabama practice with “vague, unsubstantiated medical conditions,” and prescribed controlled substances in 30-day quantities.
Additionally, prosecutors allege that they required the patients to have a follow-up appointment involving a physical examination that was “medically unnecessary.” They would then bill health care benefit programs for the patients’ visits, usually in the amount of $75, under allegedly false and fraudulent pretenses.
The alleged scheme earned the defendants more than $10,000. If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the drug conspiracy and distribution counts. They face maximum sentences of 10 years in prison on the health care fraud counts.
To read the indictment in full, click here.
Law Enforcement Raids on Physicians, Pharmacists, Nurses and Other Health Providers Will Continue.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), investigations against pill mill operations are ongoing. Additional arrests of co-conspirators, including other doctors and health providers, are forthcoming, according to the DEA. If you are a physician, pharmacist, nurse, or other health provider, ensure you are taking measures to protect yourself and your practice.
To see a prior blog I wrote on the steps pain management physicians can take to stay out of trouble, click here.
Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in DEA Cases.
At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, health care clinics, pain management clinics, pharmacists, pharmacies, and any other health care provider. We defend pain management physicians, clinics and pharmacists in state license investigations, in administrative hearings, and in DEA actions, including Show Cause Orders (SCOs) . The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, preparing contracts, helping employers and employees enforce contracts, advice on setting aside or voiding contracts, litigation of contracts (in start or federal court), business transactions, professional license defense, opinion letters, representation in investigations, fair hearing defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, litigation of restrictive covenant (covenants not to compete), Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings. It includes defense in federal or state court and defense in federal or state administrative hearings.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Robinson, Carol. “Alabama doctor, 3 nurse practitioners federally indicted in pill mill case.” AL.com (Alabama News). (December 5, 2017). Web.
Narea, Nicole. “Doctor, 3 Nurse Practitioners Charged With Running ‘Pill Mill’.” Law360. (December 5, 2017). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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