Colorado Unveils New Weapon in Fight Against Prescription Drug Abuse

By Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D., The Health Law Firm

In the United States, Colorado ranks among the highest in prescription drug abuse. Prescribing practices have contributed to both the overuse as well as the illegal use of controlled substances. Recently, the Colorado Medical Board in collaboration with the Colorado Dental Board, Colorado Board of Nursing, Colorado Board of Pharmacy, and the Nurse-Physician Advisory Task Force for Colorado Healthcare, passed a policy for prescribing and dispensing opioids. This is the first time that all four Colorado licensing agencies have worked together to formulate a common policy for health care providers.

The new guidance sets the tone for how complaints involving prescribing and dispensing controlled substances will be viewed by these regulatory boards.

To read the new policy in its entirety, click here.

An Overview of the Prescribing and Dispensing Policy.

The new policy aims to reduce prescription drug abuse by better managing opioid prescribing and dispensing. The policy states that providers working with patients who are prescribed opioids should:

– Follow the policy for prescribing and dispensing opioids;
– Be informed about evidence-based practices for opioid use in health care and risk mitigation;
– Collaborate with the integrated health care team to decrease overprescribing, misuse and abuse of opioids;
– Use the Colorado Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) when initially prescribing medication and with each refill;
– Use caution when dispensing to new or unknown patients, filling weekend or late day prescriptions, and when filling prescriptions issued by a provider far from the location of the pharmacy; and
– Educate patients on appropriate use, storage and disposal of opioids, risks and the potential for diversion.

Red Flags.

The new policy describes certain “red flags” health care providers should look for when prescribing and dispensing opioids. It alludes to certain prescription amounts and types that will likely be considered substandard in the absence of a compelling reason for the prescription. For example, the policy advises opioid doses greater than the equivalent of 120 mg morphine are dangerous. The policy also advises against opioid treatment that exceeds 90 days. It’s suggested that prescribers should consider discontinuing opioid therapy when:

– The underlying painful condition is resolved;
– Intolerable side effects emerge;
– The patient’s quality of life fails to improve;
– Functioning deteriorates; or
– There is aberrant medical use.

Tread Lightly When Prescribing Opioids.

Whether you are a physician, nurse, dentist, pharmacist or other health care provider practicing pain management, you should read the entire policy and strictly follow its guidance. Keep detailed records of your pain patients’ care, including copies of PDMP data. As a professional dealing with pain patients, you should also feel comfortable referring appropriate patients to addiction and pain management specialists at any sign of abuse. Failure to follow the new policy may lead to disciplinary action against your license.

For more tips to protect yourself from being accused of overprescribing, click here for a previous blog.


What do you think of Colorado’s policy for prescribing and dispensing opioids? Do you think this new policy will make an impact on the prescription drug abuse throughout the state? As a health care provider, will you follow the new policy? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact A Lawyer Experienced in the Representation of Health Care Professionals in Pain Management Defense.

The Health Law Firm attorneys represent physicians, pharmacists, nurses, clinics, dentists, pharmacies, health facilities and other health care providers in different cases involving allegations of overprescribing narcotics and pain medications. These include criminal investigations by local police and law enforcement authorities, investigations by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), complaints against professional licenses, 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 level.

Call (970) 416-7456 now or visit our website

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is a nurse-attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its regional office is in the Northern Colorado, area. The Health Law Firm, 155 East Boardwalk Drive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525. Phone: (970) 416-7456.

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 © 1999-2014 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.


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


Barrett, Devlin. “U.S. to Allow Pharmacies to Take Back Unused Prescription Drugs.” The Wall Street Journal. (September 08, 2014). From:

Saint Louis, Catherine. “D.E.A. to Allow Return of Unused Pills to Pharmacies.” The New York Times. (September 08, 2014). From:

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. 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.

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