Is the DEA Knocking on Your Door? What You Need to Know Right Now!

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

Is the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) knocking at your door or, even worse, going through your files inside your office?

This is what you need to know right now!

YES, you do have the right to call your attorney. Call your attorney right now. If you cannot, ask one of your employees or spouse to call your attorney. Get your attorney involved right now!

NO, do not sign a document to relinquish or voluntarily give up your DEA registration number. If you do so, this will probably be the biggest mistake you make of your life.

NO, do not sign a document waiving your right to a grand jury investigation before the DEA is authorized to charge you. Why would you want to voluntarily give up one of your most important constitutional rights?


Don’t be fooled by what the DEA agents tell you.

The DEA has the reputation (and, in my experience, deservedly so) of making false statements to individuals about what will happen to them or not happen to them if they do not “Cooperate” with the DEA by giving up their rights.

Often they will handcuff the pharmacist or the physician who is the subject of their raid, search warrant, or subpoena as a method of intimidating them. Then they will threaten the person by arresting them and jailing them immediately if they do not sign a “voluntary” relinquishment of their DEA registration. Yet once you do this, your DEA registration is gone, and you will most likely never get one again.

We have even had the report from a physician recently where the DEA agents, during executing a search warrant (not an arrest warrant, by the way), of having the doctor sign a document waiving her right to having a grand jury hearing on any charges she may have been facing. The threat was that she needed to waive her rights or be arrested on the spot and taken to jail. She signed without consulting an attorney.

If you are a pharmacist or pain management physician, or you own or operate a pain management practice, or if you prescribe or dispense opioids, you must have the name and phone number of a good health lawyer and a good criminal lawyer on hand and post at all times! It is only a matter of time before you need to use it.

Have this information in your wallet and taped to every telephone and computer in your office. But use it right away. Call your attorney right away. Your attorney will come over or brief you on what to do or not do.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH, and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, 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, call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620. Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax them to (407) 331-3030.

“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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2022-12-07T20:12:50-05:00December 7th, 2022|Categories: Pharmacy Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

When the DEA Comes Knocking: 15 Tips For a “Routine” DEA Inspection

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

As the United States continues to open back up from the COVID-19 shutdown, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is resuming on-site routine inspections.  Therefore, healthcare professionals must ensure compliance and regulatory efforts are in place.

This is part 1 of a 2-part blog series. Check back for part 2 of this blog series soon!

DEA Inspections and Site Visits:  Subpoenas.

DEA agents are often pushy, demanding, and intimidating.  They will try to use subpoenas (which are merely requests for documents that afford you at least ten days to produce the requested documents) as search warrants.  THEY ARE NOT.  They will try to use an administrative subpoena to obtain documents and get your testimony immediately. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PRODUCE THEM RIGHT AWAY. A copy of a sample subpoena used by the DEA is on our website for reference here.

Not Just a Routine Audit, Inspection, or Investigation.

Beware the “Notice of Inspection of Controlled Premises” (DEA Form 82).   Although the DEA often treats it as one, it is not a search warrant.  Also, it is probably NOT a “Routine Inspection.”  IT WILL NOT TAKE ONLY 15 TO 20 MINUTES.

We have had several clients who have had to close down their businesses all day to try to accommodate the demands of the agents performing their “routine inspection.”  The DEA should not cause you to shut down or should not cause you to turn away patients.  It should not interfere with your patient services or your ability to provide them.  You can ask them to come back at a later date.

The DEA often refers to “routine audits” as “Accountability Investigations” and requires the pharmacy or registrant to be given certain rights in connection with it. For example, DEA Form 82 states you are given the following rights:

1.    The constitutional right not to have an administrative inspection without an Administrative Inspection Warrant (AIW),
2.    Has the right to refuse consent to such an inspection,
3.    Presented with a Notice of Inspection,
4.    Given consent voluntarily, without threats of any kind,
5.    May withdraw consent at any time during the course of the inspection, and
6.    Incriminating evidence may be seized and used in criminal prosecution.

Although the DEA agent may tell you that the site visit is “completely random,” do not believe it.  If the DEA agent has brought a list of records to obtain from you, try to keep a copy of it, as your lawyer may find it very useful later when they are defending you.


What to Do When Confronted with a DEA Inspection or Site Visit.

1.    Notify the owner right away.  If you are not the owner, don’t sign anything, give permission, or agree to anything. You probably have no authority to do so.

2.    Call your health lawyer and get them over immediately.  This is an emergency!

3.    Yes, you have the right to consult with your attorney;  do not believe them if they say you can’t (which they may do, believe it or not).

4.    Request photo identification from everyone to ensure the individuals are who they say they are.  No identification? No access. Federal agents, including DEA agents, will always have their photo ID.

5.    Obtain a business card from each person present.  DEA agents always carry business cards.  If they do not have one, you will have to write all contact information for that agent from their photo id card (or photocopy, if they will allow you to do so).

6.    Do the same as the above for anyone else the DEA brings, whether they claim to be a federal or state investigator, Department of Health investigator, or local police. Please note that our experience has been that the DEA and state agencies contend that they don’t go on joint inspections or investigations (however, we don’t believe this to be true).  Therefore, get all parties’ information at the very start, or you may never get it until they testify against you.

7.    DO NOT SIGN A VOLUNTARY AGREEMENT TO RELINQUISH YOUR DEA REGISTRATION.  Agents may try to pressure and intimidate you into signing one by telling you it will be easier if you sign it. They might even try to scare you by warnings of criminal prosecution unless you sign it.  Yes, you have the right to consult with an attorney before deciding whether or not to sign it (they may falsely tell you that you don’t). However, once you sign it, it is gone.  If you are a prescribing physician or health professional, your authority to prescribe is gone forever.  If you are a pharmacy/pharmacist, your ability to order or fill any controlled substances is forever gone. So go ahead and put a sign on the door that says “CLOSED-Out of Business.”

8.    Before the inspection begins, you should be given a form to read and sign. If not, request it. It will usually be a DEA Form 82 “Notice of Inspection of Controlled Premises” Form. Before the inspection, it should be read, explained, agreed to, and signed, not during or after.

9.    Read the form carefully. You have the right to fax it, scan and e-mail it, or call and read it to your attorney before you sign it. If it says you have the right to refuse the inspection, consider putting it off until a later date. Especially if you are busy and have patients you must serve.

10.    Obtain a copy of the form (inspection form or subpoena) at the beginning and keep it.  You will need this later.

11.    Obtain a complete, detailed receipt for any documents, prescriptions, or other items taken by the agents. Again, since this is not a search warrant, the DEA does not have the authority to take your only originals and leave you without a copy.

12.    You may or may not be in serious trouble and subject to future criminal charges or administrative action to revoke your DEA registration. Your attorney should be able to evaluate this and advise you. Don’t bother to ask the agents, as they will not tell you what is in your own best interest to know.

13.    If you don’t have an attorney who is experienced in health law and DEA defense,  get one NOW.  You should begin preparing now.  It often takes the DEA a year or more to work up charges against you.  Once you are served with charges, you will only have a very short time to prepare your defense.  It is a completely unfair system for the subject of charges as the government will have longer to prepare its case against you than you have to prepare your defense.  Take advantage of the time you have. Do not waste it.

14.    Be polite and do not argue with a DEA agent.

15.    Do not volunteer information, but never tell a lie. Making a false statement to any federal agent is a felony criminal offense. A subpoena for documents is not an authorization to interrogate you.  A search warrant is not an authorization to interrogate you.

Lastly, don’t forget to check back to read part 2 of this blog series.

Please remember: This blog’s statements are opinions based on our experience.  If you do not agree with it, then you are probably the DEA.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, pharmacists, pharmacies, medical groups, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, dentists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (888) 331-6620 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.


Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm.  The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax them to (407) 331-3030.


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“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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2022-11-12T21:34:46-05:00November 28th, 2022|Categories: Pharmacy Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Supreme Court Explores Doctor Intent in “Pill Mill” Criminal Prosecutions Under the Controlled Substances Act

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

Physicians and other healthcare professionals usually have broad scope to prescribe most drugs, including potentially dangerous ones. However, over the past decade, many limits, often imposed arbitrarily through criminal prosecutions or drastic administrative sanctions, have been used to impose limits.

The question was recently put before the U.S. Supreme Court as to how far a physician’s judgment can be allowed to go in the context of prescribing controlled substances before it becomes criminal. This was in the context of criminal prosecution of a physician for allegedly over-prescribing.

On March 1, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court confronted the question of whether good faith is a defense for a doctor criminally prosecuted for unlawful distribution of controlled substances. For nearly 90 minutes, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments from both sides, struggling with the exact wording of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the clarity of the relevant federal regulation, and the proposition that a doctor who lacked subjective criminal intent could nevertheless go to jail for a substantial period of time, up to life imprisonment.

The two physicians whose cases are being considered are Xiulu Ruan, who was sentenced to 21 years in prison in 2017 for allegedly running a “pill mill,” and Shakeel Kahn, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2019 for crimes including drug distribution of controlled drugs resulting in the death of a patient. The court consolidated their cases for the Supreme Court’s hearing.

Controversial Legal Standards Used to Convict.

The legal standard in question centers heavily on a disputed sentence in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) that says, “Except as authorized by this subchapter, it shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally” to distribute controlled substances. The central question is how juries should assess the intentions of a doctor accused of prescribing narcotic painkillers outside “the usual course of his professional practice.”

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) argued that the criminal intent standard is an objective one — or an “honest effort” to comply with professional norms. On the other hand, the attorneys for the doctors who were prosecuted argue that the standard must be subjective; that is did the doctor subjectively believe they were not prescribed for a legitimate medical purpose. This distinction gives rise to whether there is merely a violation of regulation as opposed to a crime having been committed.

Throughout the oral arguments, various justices seemed to cast doubt on whether deviating from mainstream standards on opioid prescribing is sufficient to throw physicians in jail, which could result in years or life in prison. In some states, this might even result in a death sentence, pretty drastic for what would otherwise be medical negligence.

How This Ruling Will Impact Future Prosecutions.

This case and the upcoming ruling raise alarms for healthcare providers and advocates for pain patients. Many fear that the ruling could enable even more aggressive prosecutions of opioid prescribers. They warn that such a decision could discourage doctors from providing opioids even when they’re fully warranted. In addition, the outcome could affect civil litigation accusing large pharmaceutical companies of recklessly selling prescription narcotics.

After hearing the oral arguments, the Supreme Court seemed likely to demand more substantial proof of intentional wrongdoing when the DOJ prosecutes opioid prescribers. A decision from the High Court is expected by late June 2022. The cases are Ruan v. U.S., case number 20-1410, and Kahn v. U.S., case number 21-5261, in the Supreme Court of the United States.

We will definitely keep you posted on the outcome of this case.

Click here to read one of my blogs about controlled substances and compliance.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Health Professionals and Providers.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys have represented physicians, pharmacists, nurses, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, health facilities, and other health care providers in different cases involving allegations of over-prescribing narcotics and pain medications. These include criminal investigations by local police and law enforcement authorities, investigations by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), complaints against professional licenses by the Florida Department of Health, investigations, and prosecutions by the Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCU), and other types of cases. Having attorneys familiar with the medical standards of care and guidelines for prescribing narcotics and having access to expert medical and pharmacy professionals who can testify as expert witnesses in such cases is also crucial. We have represented professionals in administrative investigations and administrative hearings at both the state and federal levels.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Overley, Jeff. “High Court Poised To Make DOJ’s Job Harder In Opioid Cases.” Law360. (March 1, 2022.) Web.

Gluck, Abby. “In opioids “pill mill” case, justices grapple with physician intent.” SCOTUS Blog. (March 2, 2022). Web.

Joseph, Andrew. “Fight over opioid prescribing — and when it turns criminal — heads to Supreme Court.” STAT News. (February 28, 2022). 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620

“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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2022-06-24T16:22:15-04:00June 24th, 2022|Categories: Pharmacy Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agents May Surprise You at Florida Board of Pharmacy Meeting

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M. Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

At several recent Florida Board meetings, after hearings at which disciplinary cases were considered by the Board, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents approached the health professional. Even in instances where the pharmacist was represented by an attorney and the attorney was there, the DEA agents confronted the professional involved.

What Were the DEA Agents Trying to Do?

In the cases where The Health Law Firm’s attorneys were there representing clients, the professional received some type of discipline on his or her license. Some of these were Settlement Agreements. The DEA Agent approached the professional and urged the professional to sign a voluntary relinquishment of DEA registration.

It seems that this is happening to professionals where there is some type of serious or long-term discipline is being taken against their licenses, such as long-term probation, suspension or revocation. Also, if the charges against the health professional involved, drugs, over-prescribing, abuse of narcotics, operation of a “pill mill,” selling or illegally dispensing or prescribing narcotics, drug diversion or abuse, being impaired from use of drugs, and other similar misconduct. These are often grounds for the revocation, suspension or revocation of the DEA number.

This action by DEA agents has occurred at Board of Medicine meetings and hearings, Board of Osteopathic Medicine meetings and hearings, Board of Dentistry meetings and hearing and Board of Pharmacy meetings and hearings. If you are a professional who has a DEA registration and number, you are, apparently, fair game.

Don’t Be Surprised; Be Prepared and Don’t Make a Rash Decision.

It is unusual to see federal agents of this type “cruising” state professional board meetings like we have seen lately. But, it seems to make sense, from the DEA’s point of view. If you can take several minutes and convince, surprise or intimidate a health professional into relinquishing his or her DEA registration voluntarily, then you may save the government hundreds of hours of time and thousands of dollars in expenses in having to investigate and have a separate administrative hearing (which the health professional may win), if he or she voluntarily relinquishes the DEA registration.

Immediately consult with an experienced health law attorney who has dealt with the DEA before.

Remember Your Rights; Yes, You Have Rights!

Yes, you do have rights, Constitutional rights. Use them! That is what they are there for.

You have the right to consult with counsel before making a decision. Don’t believe it if a DEA agents tells you that you don’t.

You have the right not to sign any forms or make any statements. Don’t sign anything. Don’t make any statements except for getting the agent’s card and telling them you will have your attorney contact them.

You have the right to take time to consider the matter and consult with others. You do not have to make a decision right away.

The Consequences of Voluntary Relinquishment are Serious and Long-Lasting.

Your voluntary relinquishment are serious and long lasting. It will be treated the same as a revocation of your DEA number. We have consulted with physicians and pharmacists who have never been able to get it back after they relinquished it.

You will probably be terminated from any health insurance panels you are on if this happens.

You will probably have action taken against your clinical privileges if you have clinical privileges at any hospital, nursing home or ambulatory surgical center (ASC).

You may be terminated from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

There are many other consequences that may result.

Therefore, you and your attorney should be aware that this may happen and you and your attorney should be prepared if it does happen.

For more tips on how to prepare, click here to read my prior blog.

Don’t Wait Too Late; Consult with an Experienced Health Law Attorney Early.

Do not wait until action has been taken against you to consult with an experienced attorney in these matters. Few cases are won on appeal. It is much easier to win your case when there is proper time to prepare and you have requested a formal hearing so that you may actually dispute the facts being alleged against you.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing pharmacists, pharmacies and pharmacy technicians in investigations and at Board of Pharmacy hearings. Call now or visit our website 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.

Keywords: Administrative hearing attorney, representation for administrative hearings, administrative complaint defense attorney, Board of Pharmacy representation, Board of Pharmacy attorney, Board of Pharmacy defense attorney, representation for Board of Pharmacy investigations, representation for Board of Pharmacy complaints, DEA hearing defense attoreny, DEA investigation attorney, DEA hearing representation, DEA investigation representation, pharmacist attorney, health care professional defense attorney, representation for health care professionals, professional licensure defense attorney, professional licensure representation, licensure defense attorney, representation for licensure issues, representation for pharmacists, representation for pharmacies, pharmacy attorney, review 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.

 

 

 

 

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