Florida Pharmacy Owner to Serve 15 Years in Prison for $100 Million Billing Fraud Scheme

George F. Indest III HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On April 26, 2018, the owner of several Florida pharmacies was sentenced to 15 years in prison and ordered to give up $54.5 million in restitution. Nicholas A. Borgesano Jr., owner of A to Z Pharmacies, pled guilty to his role in a $100 million scheme involving bogus insurance reimbursements for prescription drugs.

He pled guilty in November to charges of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity, according to the order. Click here to read more.

Health Care Billing Fraud Schemes. 

According to prosecutors, Borgesano was at the center of an alleged scheme in which the pharmacy owner used his six stores to peddle prescription compound medications. He would then submit fraudulent reimbursement claims to Medicare, Tricare and private insurance companies.

Borgesano and his co-conspirators are accused of manipulating billing codes in the reimbursement claims and submit claims for pharmaceutical ingredients they didn’t even have. Additionally, he used one of his pharmacies in Florida as the hub of operations and paid his co-conspirators through shell companies, checks and the purchase of assets, prosecutors said.

From the pharmacy owner and his group of conspirators, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has seized $7.6 million worth of property, including several luxury vehicles and a 50-foot racing boat, the DOJ said. To read more about the co-conspirators, click here to read the press release issued by the DOJ.

To read the judgement in full click here.

The expensive prescription medications and creams involved in this case have been targeted by prosecutors in a handful of other Florida suits alleging Medicare and Tricare fraud by pharmacy owners and others. Click here to read one of my prior blogs involving a similar case.


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEADOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigationadministrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Greene, Kat. “Pharmacy Owner Gets 15 Years For Role In $100M Scheme.” Law360. (April 27, 2018). Web.

Manning, Margie. “New Port Richey pharmacy owner sentenced in $100 million fraud scheme.” Tampa Bay Business Journal. (April 26, 2018). 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.

KeyWords: False Claims Act defense attorneyFCA legal counselFCA defense lawyer, Anti-Kickback Statute (AKSdefense attorneyFCA representation, legal representation for allegations of violating Anti-Kickback StatuteAKS representation, TRICARE false claims legal defense attorney, TRICARE physician representation, legal representation violating False Claims Act, pharmaceutical fraud lawyer, compounding pharmacy attorney, fraudulent practices of pharmaceutical companies, FCA violations attorneyhealth care fraud representation, TRICARE fraud attorneyhealth law defense attorneyhealth care fraud defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, representation for health care fraud investigations, compounding pharmacy lawyer, prescription reimbursement representation, pharmacy defense attorneypharmacist defense lawter, representation for pharmacies, representation for pharmacistslegal representation for health care facilities, representation for health care professionals, legal defense of TRICARE providers, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation representation, DOJ defense attorney, representation for DOJ matters, attorney reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Sex, Drugs and Money Lands Avalon Park Pharmacist in Handcuffs

9 Indest-2008-6By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Sex, prescription drugs and money – sounds like the next big rock ‘n’ roll song, doesn’t it? According to a number of news sources, the owner of an Avalon Park-area pharmacist was allegedly knowingly filling phony prescriptions for painkillers. The pharmacist is also accused of exchanging sex for drugs with at least one woman, according to the Orlando Sentinel. This investigation was led by the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Both agencies simultaneously raided the pharmacy on November 29, 2012.

Avalon Park is a community it the greater Orlando area.
Filling Phony Prescriptions.

According to WFTV, the owner of the pharmacy and two employees sat handcuffed outside the pharmacy as federal drug agents reportedly removed boxes of evidence from the pharmacy during the raid. Agents then moved onto the pharmacist’s nearby home.

It’s believed another person was producing fake prescriptions and asking others to get them filled at the Avalon pharmacy and others around town. The people who fill the prescriptions are nicknamed “smurfs.” They are usually hired by a drug ring. They return the pills from the prescriptions they get filled, back to the ring. Click here to read what Papa Smurf has to say about his name being used in such a manner.

According to WFTV, 230 fraudulent prescriptions were produced and 33 were filled at the Avalon-area pharmacy.

Click here to watch WFTV’s report on this raid.
Pharmacist’s Alleged Relationship with Smurf.

A woman, who worked as a smurf, allegedly told federal agents she had sex with the pharmacist. Afterward, the pharmacist gave her cash and oxycodone, according to the Orlando Sentinel. However, we want to make it clear that those who break the law and get caught often point the finger at innocent people, trying to divert blame from themselves.

To read the article from the Orlando Sentinel, click here.
Pharmacist Facing Charges of Trafficking in Controlled Substance.

The pharmacist faces up to 32 counts of trafficking in controlled substance and one count of conspiracy to traffic. Federal agents believe the pharmacist is part of a larger drug ring.

On the Florida Department of Health (DOH) website his license is still listed as clear/active. To see his license status, click here.

Remember, all who are name or discussed in our blog are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Representing Pharmacists and Pharmacies.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to pharmacists and pharmacies in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Comments?

Tell us your thoughts on this story. Are federal drug agents fighting a losing battle? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
Sources:

Barrett, Steve. “Avalon Park Pharmacy Owner Accused of Filling Fake Oxycodone Prescriptions.” WFTV. (November 30, 2012). From: http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/dea-agents-raid-avalon-park-pharmacy/nTJbw/

Pauk, Amy. “Pharmacist Accused of Over-Dispensing Painkillers, Exchanging Pills for Sex.” Orlando Sentinel. (November 29, 2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-avalon-park-pharmacy-20121129,0,6040870.story
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.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Board of Pharmacy Updates Record Retention Rules for Pharmacies

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

At its meeting held on February 12, 2014, the Florida Board of Pharmacy voted to approve language changes to a number of rules. Specifically, those changes were put into effect to establish a uniform four-year retention policy for pharmacy records.

Previously the Board’s rules were not consistent with respect to how long pharmacies were required to retain different types of records.

When approving new rules or changes to existing rules, administrative bodies are required to evaluate the regulatory costs of the changes. In examining these costs the Board found that any financial costs imposed upon small businesses would be balanced by the efficiencies created by a uniform retention period.

Board of Pharmacy Voted to Change the Wording in These Rules.

Below is a list of the administrative rules that were changed:

– Standards for the Approval of Registered Pharmacy Technician Training Programs
Rule 64B16-26.351, Florida Administrative Code

– Standards for Approval of Courses and Providers
Rule 64B16-26.601, Florida Administrative Code

– Continuing Education Records Requirements
Rule 64B16-26.603, Florida Administrative Code

– General Terms and Conditions to be Followed by a Pharmacist When Ordering and Dispensing Approved Medicinal Drug Products
Rule 64B16-27.210, Florida Administrative Code

– Standards of Practice – Continuous Quality Improvement Program
Rule 64B16-27.300, Florida Administrative Code

– Requirement for Patient Records
Rule 64B16-27.800, Florida Administrative Code

– Change of Ownership
Rule 64B16-28.2021, Florida Administrative Code

– Centralized Prescription Filling, Delivering and Returning
Rule 64B16-28.450, Florida Administrative Code

– Transmission of Starter Dose Prescriptions for Patients in Class I Institutional or Modified II B Facilities
Rule 64B16-28.503, Florida Administrative Code

– Class II Institutional Pharmacies
Rule 64B16-28.605, Florida Administrative Code

– Remote Medication Order Processing for Class II Institutional Pharmacies
Rule 64B16-28.606, Florida Administrative Code

– Automated Pharmacy System – Long-Term Care, hospice, and Prison
Rule 64B16-28.607, Florida Administrative Code

– Modified Class II Institutional Pharmacies
Rule 64B16-28.702, Florida Administrative Code

– Record Maintenance for Animal Shelter Permits
Rule 64B16-29.0041, Florida Administrative Code

Make Sure Your Facility is Prepared.

While these rule changes are not final, it is important to recognize if they will be affecting your facility. You should also be making arrangements in your facility to ensure that there is enough computer disk space or physical space to retain these records. Keep in mind that these records retention rules are in addition to any others imposed by other Florida or federal statutes or rules relating to controlled substances or other pharmacy practices.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

How do you feel about the requirement of pharmacy records to be retained for four years? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with 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 Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Board of Pharmacy Approves Change to Destruction of Controlled Substances Rule

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

At its meeting held in Orlando, Florida, on February 12, 2014, the Florida Board of Pharmacy approved final changes to Rule 64B16-28.303, Florida Administrative Code. This rule governs the destruction of controlled substances by Class II Institutional Pharmacies.

The focus of the new rule changes is to ensure that either the prescription department manager (PDM) or the consultant pharmacist of record signs off on all destruction of controlled substances. Further, the rule requires that a copy of the destruction documents be mailed to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) within one business day of destruction.

According to the Board’s statement, the purpose of the rule change is to make it “easier to properly dispose of [controlled] substances while ensuring that one of the persons signing for the destruction always is either the prescription department manager or the consultant pharmacist of record, and that a copy of the destruction is timely sent to the DEA.”

Who the Rule Applies To.

Although this rule applies to all permittees, pharmacists in Class II institutional pharmacies need to be aware that the Board’s clarifications were specifically aimed at those facilities. In case you are not sure whether you work in a Class II pharmacy, those facilities are defined as pharmacies which “employ the services of a registered pharmacist or pharmacists who, in practicing institutional pharmacy, [] provide dispensing and consulting services on the premises to patients of that institution, for use on the premises of that institution.” Section 465.019(b), Florida Statutes.

More Details of the Rule.

The new rule also states that destruction shall be conducted by at least two people. One will be the PDM or the consulting pharmacist of record and the other has to be one of the following: the medical director of the facility or his/her physician designee; the director of nursing or his/her licensed nurse designee, or a sworn law enforcement officer.

Finally, the rule retains the ability of the pharmacy to destroy the drugs by way of sending them to a reverse distributor in lieu of on-site destruction.

Check our blog regularly for updates on this and other recently adopted rules and changes.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of this rule change? Will the change affect your job or business? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with 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, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

The 25 Biggest Mistakes Pharmacists Make After Being Notified of a Department of Health Complaint

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The investigation of a complaint which could lead to the revocation of a pharmacist’s license to practice and the assessment of tens of thousands of dollars in fines, usually starts with a simple letter from the Department of Health (DOH). This is a very serious legal matter and it should be treated as such by the pharmacist who receives it. Yet, in many cases, attorneys are consulted by pharmacists after the entire investigation is over, and they have attempted to represent themselves throughout the case. Often, the mistakes that have been made severely compromise an attorney’s ability to achieve a favorable result for the pharmacist.

These are the 25 biggest mistakes we see in the pharmacy cases we are called upon to defend after a DOH investigation has been initiated:

1.  Failing to keep a current, valid address on file with the DOH (as required by law), which may seriously delay the receipt of the Uniform Complaint (notice of investigation), letters, and other important correspondence related to the investigation.

2.  Contacting the DOH investigator and providing him/her an oral statement or oral interview. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

3.  Making a written statement in response to the “invitation” extended by the DOH investigator to do so. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

4.  Failing to carefully review the complaint to make sure it has been sent to the correct pharmacist. (Note: Check name and license number).

5.  Failing to ascertain whether or not the investigation is on the “Fast Track” which may then result in an emergency suspension order (ESO) suspending the pharmacist’s license until all proceedings are concluded. (Note: This will usually be the case if there are allegations regarding drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual contact with a patient, mental health issues, or failure to comply with PRN instructions.)

6.  Providing a copy of the pharmacist’s curriculum vitae (CV) or resume to the investigator because the investigator requested them to do so. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

7.Believing that if they “just explain it,” the investigation will be closed and the case dropped.

8.  Failing to submit a timely objection to a DOH subpoena when there are valid grounds to do so.

9.  Failing to forward a complete copy of the patient medical record when subpoenaed by the DOH investigator as part of the investigation, when no objection is going to be filed.

10.  Delegating the task of providing a complete copy of the patient medical record to office staff, resulting in an incomplete or partial copy being provided.

11.  Failing to keep an exact copy of any medical records, documents, letters or statements provided to the investigator.

12.  Believing that the investigator has knowledge or experience in medical procedures or health care matters or procedures being investigated.

13.  Believing that the investigator is merely attempting to ascertain the truth of the matter and this will result in the matter being dismissed.

14.  Failing to check to see if their medical malpractice insurance carrier will pay the legal fees to defend them in this investigation.

15.  Talking to DOH investigators, staff or attorneys, in the mistaken belief that they are capable of doing so without providing information that can and will be used against them.

16.  Believing that because they haven’t heard anything for six months or more the matter has “gone away.” The matter does not ever just go away.

17.  Failing to submit a written request to the investigator at the beginning of the investigation for a copy of the complete investigation report and file and then following up with additional requests until it is received.

18.  Failing to wisely use the time while the investigation is proceeding to interview witnesses, obtain witness statements, conduct research, obtain experts, and perform other tasks that may assist defending the case.

19.  Failing to exercise the right of submitting documents, statements, and expert opinions to rebut the findings made in the investigation report before the case is submitted to the Probable Cause Panel of your licensing board for a decision.

20.  Taking legal advice from their colleagues regarding what they should do (or not do) in defending themselves in the investigation.

21.  Retaining “consultants” or other non-lawyer personnel to represent them.

22.  Believing that the case is indefensible so there is no reason to even try to have it dismissed by the Probable Cause Panel.

23.  Attempting to defend themselves.

24.  Believing that because they know someone with the Department of Health or a state legislator, that influence can be exerted to have the case dismissed.

25.  Failing to immediately retain the services of a health care attorney who is experienced in such matters to represent them, to communicate with the DOH investigator for them, and to prepare and submit materials to the Probable Cause Panel.

Bonus Point: 26. Communicating with the Department of Health about the pending case.

Not every case will require submission of materials to the Probable Cause Panel after the investigation is received and reviewed. There will be a few where the allegations made are not “legally sufficient” and do not constitute an offense for which the pharmacist may be disciplined.

In other cases, an experienced health care attorney may be successful in obtaining a commitment from the DOH attorney to recommend a dismissal to the Probable Cause Panel. In other cases (usually the most serious ones), for tactical reasons, the experienced health care attorney may recommend that you waive your right to have the case submitted to the Probable Cause Panel and that you proceed directly to an administrative hearing. The key to a successful outcome in all of these cases is to obtain the assistance of a health care lawyer who is experienced in appearing before the Board of Pharmacy in such cases and does so on a regular basis.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health Investigations of Pharmacists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to pharmacists and pharmacies in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

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.

Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Out-of-State Compounding Pharmacies May Need a Permit To Do Business in Florida

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

Beginning on October 1, 2014, out-of-state compounding pharmacies may be required to hold a compounded sterile product permit. That’s because the Regulated Industries Committee of the Florida Senate voted on March 13, 2014, to approve a bill increasing the restrictions on out-of-state compounding pharmacies that ship medications into Florida. These increased regulations would apply to around 300 compounding pharmacies shipping medicine to Florida.

The bill was introduced to increase standards for compounding pharmacies that create medications that are tailored to the needs of individual patients. Currently the bill is out for reference review. Considering that this is a hot issue in Florida and nationally, we expect the bill to pass.

Click here to read the entire bill.

Requirements Under the New Bill.

The bill requires out-of-state compounding pharmacies to hold a compounded sterile product permit to ship medications into Florida. Applications for the permit would be provided by the Board of Pharmacy. The bill also requires pharmacies to meet or exceed Florida’s sterile compounding standards. Under the bill, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) is responsible for inspecting out-of-state compounding pharmacies for compliance. The DOH would hold the authority to punish or revoke an out-of-state compounding pharmacy’s license for noncompliance. The pharmacy would be responsible for reimbursing the cost of the inspection.

If the bill passes, compounding pharmacies already shipping compounded sterile products into Florida may continue to do so, as long as the pharmacy receives a permit before January 31, 2015.

Permit Law for Florida Pharmacies that Compound Sterile Products.

Similarly, the Florida Board of Pharmacy promulgated a rule requiring a permit for pharmacies that compound sterile products in Florida. Effective September 23, 2013, Rule 64B16-28.100(8), Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.), requires most pharmacies that engage in the preparation of sterile compounded products in Florida to obtain a Special Sterile Compounding Permit.

Click here to read more on this permit.

New Standards Most Likely Triggered by Tainted Compounded Medications.

These new standards are being implemented after a nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to contaminated drugs made by a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts. Florida is no stranger to allegations of tainted compounded products. In May 2012, Franck’s pharmacy in Ocala, Florida, was accused of distributing eye medications that contained a fungal infection. Click here for the first blog and here for the second blog.

It’s likely these new permits are a direct result of the recent issues with compounded medications and compounding pharmacies. The goal of these permits is to help authorities, such as the DOH and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), track pharmacies compounding sterile products.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of the bill to increase restrictions on out-of-state compounding pharmacies that ship medications into Florida? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

The News Service of Florida. “Pharmacy Bill, FL Budge Taking Shape.” WUSF News. (March 14, 2014). From: http://wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu/post/pharmacy-bill-fl-budget-taking-shape

Palombo, Jessica. “After Federal Compounding Pharmacy Crackdown, Fla. Panel Passes Extra Restrictions.” WFSU News. (February 12, 2014). From: http://news.wfsu.org/post/after-federal-compounding-pharmacy-crackdown-fla-panel-passes-extra-restrictions

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with 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, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

 

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

DEA Offers New Prescription Drug Return Policy

3 Indest-2009-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Looking to improve the prescription drug abuse epidemic in the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced September 8, 2014, that it would permit patients to return their unused prescription medications to pharmacies. This new rule, covering all types of prescription drugs, will give patients the option of mailing unused prescriptions to an authorized collector using packaging provided by the pharmacy.

Hopefully this will help to eliminate many of the problematic situations that pharmacists and physicians found themselves in when they accumulated returned or unused medications from patients for destruction.

This move intends to address the rising number of injuries and deaths associated with controlled substance drugs, particularly opioids. Reducing the stockpile of unneeded prescription drugs from American homes will limit teenagers’ accessibility to their parents’ medications and reduce burglaries for such substances. According to The New York Times, this demographic is known to be the most prevalent abuser of such controlled substances.

To read the full story from The New York Times, click here.

Prior Methods of Prescription Drug Disposal.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, patients were only allowed to dispose of unused drugs themselves or surrender them to law enforcement. Personal disposal of controlled substances typically means flushing pills down a toilet or throwing them in the trash. Because this can pose a risk toward animals and clean drinking water, these methods are frowned upon by environmentalists and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Drug “take back” programs are another option when it comes to disposing of unused prescription drugs. These events are organized by the DEA and are held twice a year at local police departments across the country. During these programs, citizens can anonymously drop off any unused prescription drugs. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reported that a nationwide event in April 2014 brought in 390 tons of prescription drugs at more than 6,000 sites. In the past four years, these collection events have removed from circulation more than 4.1 million pounds of prescription medication from across the country.

Although these events prove successful, many healthcare professionals are optimistic for the bigger impact the pharmacy “take back” programs may have. Providing consumers convenient year-round access to medication disposals will be positive reinforcement to regularly dispose of unused prescription medications. This method is believed to be more likely to accomplish the mission of shrinking the pool of unused and potentially fatal controlled substances in American homes.

To read the full article from The Wall Street Journal, click here.

Ironing Out Details of the New Plan.

There are many logistics to consider to ensure these pharmaceutical “take back” programs will be successful. The programs will not be mandatory, as the decision to take part will be the under the sole discretion of each company. The pharmacies must voluntarily choose to register with the DEA in order to start receiving the leftover prescriptions. In the past, pharmacies have not generally wanted to accept the hassle of offering such a program. However, the DEA expects many pharmacies to jump on the bandwagon to showcase good-faith effort of keeping drugs out of the wrong hands.

DEA-approved organizations collecting the unused drugs will include hospital pharmacies, narcotic treatment programs, and companies contracted by other collectors to destroy controlled substances.

There are concerns circling the initiative. Some pharmacies do not have the resources required to accommodate incinerators, thus limiting the locations available to consumers. In addition, professionals are concerned with the lack of regulations listed in the new plan. There are no set requirements on how the prescriptions should be destroyed. The rules simply mandate that the drugs are altered into a permanent, irreversible state.

The burden of payment has also not been discussed or outlined in the new plan. Who will cover the cost of packaging and disposal has yet to be decided. Also, to be considered is the challenge of keeping the returned prescriptions safe until destruction. An unsecured, unmonitored return site containing stock piles of addictive drugs would be a gold mine for many addicts and criminals. Should a theft occur at one of these drop-off receptacles, who would be held liable? The American Pharmacists Association has already expressed concern of pharmacy legal liability.

The biggest obstacle of all, however, may be convincing the general public that returning unused pills is a necessary moral obligation.

Comments?

Would you participate in this type of prescription drug return program? As a pharmacist or someone who works at a pharmacy, what are your concerns with this take back program? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Consult With A Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Pharmacists and Pharmacies.

We routinely provide deposition coverage to pharmacists, pharmacies and other health professionals being deposed in criminal cases, negligence cases, civil cases or disciplinary cases involving other health professionals. We can review business referral arrangements and provide legal counsel on whether they are not in violation of federal and state anti-referral laws. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing physicians, physician assistants and other health professionals in investigations and at Board of Pharmacy hearings.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Barrett, Devlin. “U.S. to Allow Pharmacies to Take Back Unused Prescription Drugs.” The Wall Street Journal. (September 08, 2014). From: http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-to-allow-pharmacies-to-take-back-unused-prescription-drugs-1410186602

Saint Louis, Catherine. “D.E.A. to Allow Return of Unused Pills to Pharmacies.” The New York Times. (September 08, 2014). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/09/health/unused-pills-return-to-pharmacies.html?_r=0

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.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Specialty Pharmacy Settles Lawsuit Over Illegal Kickbacks

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on December 27, 2012, that a specialty pharmacy, based in San Diego, California, has agreed to pay a $11.4 million settlement. That payment is to resolve allegations that the company used kickbacks to persuade doctors to write prescription for its products. The allegations came from a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former employee.

Click here to read the press release from the DOJ.

Expensive Kickbacks Used on Doctors.

An article in Modern Healthcare states that the specialty pharmacy allegedly used tickets to sporting events, concerts, plays, spa outings, golf games and ski trips to bribe doctors to write prescriptions for its products. The company also had representatives schedule paid “preceptorships,” where the reps would follow doctors in their offices in an attempt to increase prescriptions written for their products.

To read the Modern Healthcare article, click here.

Settlement Details.

The specialty pharmacy company agreed to a forfeiture of $1.4 million to resolve the anti-kickback statue allegations. It will also pay $9.9 million to resolve false claims allegations, according to the DOJ. Representatives with the DOJ said that by entering the deferred prosecution agreement the company was able to avoid criminal and civil liability for the kickback and false claims violations.

Whistleblower Gets Reward.

According to the DOJ, the settlement resolves a False Claims Act lawsuit that was filed by a former sales representative for the specialty pharmacy. As part of the resolution, that whistleblower will receive $1.7 million.

Whistleblowers stand to gain substantial amounts, sometimes as much as thirty percent (30%), of the amount the government recovers under the False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. Sect. 3730). Such awards encourage employees and contractors to come forward and report fraud. You can learn more on the False Claims Act on the DOJ website.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Qui Tam or Whistleblower Cases.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

What Do You Think?

What do you think of the settlement agreement? As a health professional are you tempted with kickbacks? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “Victory Pharma Inc. of San Diego Pays $11.4 Million to Resolve Kickback Allegations in Connection with Promotion of Its Drugs.” Department of Justice. (December 27, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/December/12-civ-1547.html

Kutscher, Beth. “$11.4 Million Settlement in Pharma Kickback Case.” Modern Healthcare. (December 27, 2012). From: ttp://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20121227/NEWS/312279957/

About the Authors: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with 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 Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

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.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Legislature Reforms Pharmacy Benefit Manager Audit Practices

1 Indest-2008-1According to the Florida Legislature, it’s time for pharmacists to focus on their patients instead of paperwork. On June 13, 2014, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed Florida Senate Bill 702 into law. This law introduces clear guidelines of acceptable audit practices of pharmacies in the Sunshine State.

There are more than 2,700 pharmacies across Florida that are routinely evaluated by Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs). The purpose of these audits is to verify that certain claims are submitted and handled properly. If a PBM audit uncovers fraud or abuse, the pharmacy will be subject to penalties, including reimbursement of amounts paid. With the increase of rules regulating pharmacies, these audits have progressively become more time consuming for pharmacists.

Florida SB 702 becomes effective on October 1, 2014. To read a summary of the law, click here.

What’s the Need of the New Law?

In the United States, a PBM is most often a third party administrator of prescription drug programs. The PBM is primarily responsible for processing and paying prescription drug claims.
Currently, PBMs have broad discretion to penalize pharmacies. This means that pharmacies can be forced to pay thousands of dollars as the result of basic clerical or typographical mistakes, many of which are not the fault of the pharmacist or pharmacy staff. This law was enacted to provide reasonable standards for pharmacy audits while allowing PBMs to continue penalizing for true fraud and abuse.

Pharmacy Rights Included in New Law.

SB 702 makes common-sense auditing standards that include:

–    At least seven days advance notice before an on-site audit is conducted;
–    On-site audits scheduled after the first three days of the month;
–    A limit on the audit period of 24 months after the date claim is submitted;
–    Audits requiring clinical judgment must be conducted by or with a pharmacist;
–    Use of written practitioner records to validate pharmacy records in accordance with state and federal law;
–    Reimbursement of claims retroactively denied for clerical, typographical or computer errors unless pharmacy has a pattern of fraudulent billing;
–    Delivery of initial audit reports to pharmacists within 120 days after an audit is completed;
–    Receipt of final audit report within six months of the preliminary report;
–    Allowing 10 days for pharmacists to provide documentation to address any discrepancies found during an audit;
–    Prohibiting the use of extrapolations in auditing claims; and
–    The Office of Insurance Regulation will study pharmacy complaints of willful violations of audit provisions by PBMs.

Stipulation of Rights.

The rights listed above do not apply to audits that are based on suspicions of fraud or willful misrepresentation; audits of claims paid for by federally funded programs; or concurrent reviews or desk audits that occur within three business days after transmission where no chargeback or recoupment is demanded.

An entity that audits a pharmacy located within a Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team Task Force area designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is not required to provide seven days prior notice of an audit if the pharmacy has been a member of a credentialed provider network for less than 12 months.

What This Means for You.

For once there is a new law that does not make a pharmacist’s job more complicated. This law may actually alleviate some of the stress that comes with dealing with an audit. We’re hoping with the implementation of this law pharmacists will be able to spend more time focusing on patient care.

Comments?

What do you think of this new law? Will it affect your pharmacy? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

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.

 

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Pharmacies May be Liable for Filling Valid Prescriptions

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D.

Florida pharmacies have had their potential liability significantly expanded by the Fifth District Court of Appeal. In its recent decision, Oleckna v. Daytona Discount Pharmacy, the appellate court held that a pharmacy owes a duty to its patients that go beyond following the prescribing physician’s directions and properly dispensing the medication.

The court defined the pharmacy’s duty to use due care in filling a prescription to mean more than what it called “robotic compliance” with the instructions of the prescribing physician.

From the court’s decision and some others from around the state it would seem that Florida pharmacists are now under an obligation to question the quantity, frequency, dosage, combination, and possibly even the purpose of a valid prescription. Florida pharmacies are no longer simply a conduit for validly prescribed prescription medications. They are now an integral part of the health care system where trained professionals are expected to act as a check and balance on physicians and other prescribers.

This decision is in keeping with recent Florida Board of Pharmacy cases dealing with narcotic pain medications. The Board has interpreted Section 465.003(6), Florida Statutes, and Rule 64B16-27.820, Florida Administrative Code, to place a duty on a pharmacist to use his or her skill and experience to evaluate the propriety of every prescription presented on a global level.

While courts and the Board are more than willing to expand the scope of a pharmacist’s duty to his or her patients, unfortunately, neither have provided any prospective guidance on how to fulfill the duty.

Suggestions for Compliance.

Below are some suggestions for ensuring your pharmacy is fulfilling its obligation to its patients. This list is by no means exhaustive and is only intended to offer some basic guidance.

1. Know the physician and verify the credentials of an unfamiliar one;
2. Check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP);
3. Do not fill prescriptions that are more than 30 days old without verifying them with the prescribing physician;
4. Question higher than normal dosages and more frequent administration instructions;
5. Do not provide early refills without verifiable documentation and contact the physician when the patient is seeking an early refill on a medication with a high potential for abuse (the physician is usually in the best position to recognize drug seeking behaviors);
6. Flag concerning prescriptions for mandatory counseling prior to dispensing to give you an opportunity to discuss the risks with the patient;
7. Check the patient’s profile for interactions and discuss them with the patient and, if necessary, the prescribing physician;
8. Periodically check with the prescribing physician on long term medications;
9. Document everything done to verify the propriety of a prescription in the patient’s record; and
10. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to refuse a fill.

In addition to these steps, you should also be conducting regular staff meetings and routine reviews of your processes to ensure that they remain functional and able to be followed.

Comments?

Do you think a pharmacy or pharmacist should be held liable for filling valid prescriptions? How do you verify you or your employees are in compliance? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with 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, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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