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Mississippi Businessman Sentenced to 18 Years in Prison For $288 Million Tricare Fraud Scheme

George F. Indest III with 30+ years of experience, is Board Certified in Health LawBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On January 15, 2021, a Mississippi man was sentenced to 18 years in prison by a federal judge for his role in a $287.6 million scheme to defraud the Tricare health benefits program. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), he committed fraud by paying doctors and drug distributors kickbacks.

What is Tricare?

Tricare is the health care benefit program serving active-duty military personnel, military retirees, and their dependents worldwide. The program provides comprehensive coverage to all beneficiaries, including health plans, special programs, prescriptions, and dental plans. Learn more about Tricare here.

Conspiracy to Commit Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering.

In July 2020, he pled guilty to orchestrating a $287.6 million scheme to defraud Tricare by paying doctors and drug distributors kickbacks. The kickbacks were in exchange for unnecessary compounded medication prescriptions sent to his pharmacies. He admitted to tampering with drug formulas and bribing doctors to authorize prescriptions to rake in reimbursements from the federal benefits program. Read the complaint in full.

More Details of the Fraud Scheme.

According to the government, from 2012 to 2016, he used marketing companies, drug distributors, and compounding pharmacies that he owned to contract with other pharmacies to provide prescriptions for the medications.

He admitted to creating prescription pads with the drug formulas for doctors to push the expensive drugs onto patients easily. In exchange for participating in the fraud, doctors got a cut of the pharmacy benefits managers and programs’ reimbursements.

Additionally, he and his co-conspirators conducted illegal wire transfers of millions of dollars in illegally obtained cash to various companies and bank accounts. The government said he personally obtained more than $40 million from the scheme.

As part of his plea agreement, he is ordered to forfeit more than $50 million worth of property, luxury cars, and an airplane. He was also ordered Friday by U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett of the Southern District of Mississippi to pay $287,659,569 in restitution. Click here to view the plea agreement.

To read about a similar Tricare fraud case in Florida, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists, pharmacies, doctors, and medical groups in DEA, DOH, FDA, OIG, and DOJ investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections, and audits. The Firm also represents both plaintiffs (whistleblowers or relators) and defendants in False Claims Act (whistleblower or qui tam) cases. 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 (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Clough, Craig. “Miss. Businessman Gets 18 Years For $288M Tricare Fraud.” Law360. (January 15, 2021). Web.

Stawicki, Kevin. “Miss. Businessman Pleads Guilty To $288M Tricare Fraud.” Law360. (July 10, 2020). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or 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 © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Florida’s Prescription Drug Importation Plan Continues to Gain Support

Headshot of The Health Law Firm attorney George F. Indest, IIIBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On March 12, 2019, the Florida House of Representatives’ Health Quality Subcommittee voted 15 to 2 to approve House Bill 19 (HB 19) that would implement one of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recently announced health care proposals. In February 2019, the new Florida governor, who was criticized for not having a health care platform while he campaigned, announced the proposal that Florida start importing drugs from Canada.

HB 19 -Prescription Drug Importation Programs.

HB 19 was created for the purpose of safely importing cost-effective prescription drugs from Canada and other foreign nations under specified conditions. The proposed program would go into effect on July 1, 2019.

HB 19 provides eligibility criteria for prescription drugs and program participants; provides distribution requirements; provides annual reporting requirements; provides application and permitting requirements for certain participating entities; and provides that implementation of International Prescription Drug Importation Program is contingent on federal arrangement or obtaining federal guidance. Click here for more information on HB 19.

Two Programs, One Goal – Lowering Prescription Drug Prices.

The program will offer access to FDA-approved prescription drugs imported from Canada, allowing the drugs to be sold to Floridians at a much lower cost than they could otherwise purchase them here. “One of the biggest drivers of this country’s out of control healthcare spending is the cost of prescription drugs,” said Governor DeSantis.

According to the bill, the U.S. spends 30 to 190% more than other developed countries on prescription drugs, and up to 174% more for the exact same for prescription drugs. The proposed bill aims to lower these unnecessary high costs by establishing two different drug importation programs.

The first program would allow the state to import prescription drugs from Canada for use by the Florida Medicaid Program and prison health care system. It would be known as the Canadian Drug Importation Program. It would be run by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).

The second program would be known as the International Drug Importation Program. It would be run by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and would be available to individual residents.

Despite gaining house support, both programs would still need approval from the federal government before they could be implemented in Florida.

To learn more about Gov. DeSantis’ proposal, click here to read his press release.

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 please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Sexton, Christine. “DeSantis prescription drug savings plan gets early House support.” Orlando Sentinel. (March 12, 2019). Web.

News Service of Florida. “DeSantis Drug Importation Plan Wins House Support.” Sunshine State News. (March 13, 2019). 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: Legal representation for pharmacies, representation of health care professionals, health law defense attorney, doctor attorney, nurse attorney, Legal Defense for Pharmacists, pharmacy defense attorney, representation for pharmacists, representation for pharmacies, Department of Health defense attorney, DOH investigation representation, quality assurance representation, DEA investigation, DEA attorney, DEA representation, prescription E-FORSCE representation, DEA defense lawyer, representation for overprescribing, Medicare investigation lawyer, representation for Medicaid investigation, representation for health care professionals, license defense lawyer, licensure representation, board representation attorney, representation for board investigations, whistleblower representation, qui tam representation, whistleblower attorney, whistleblower defense attorney, qui tam attorney, qui tam defense lawyer, representation for license defense, licensure defense attorney, protecting your professional license, Florida opioid crisis, Florida’s ongoing lawsuit for opioid crisis The Health Law Firm, Florida health law attorney, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys

“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Governor’s Prescription Foreign Drug Importation Plan Gains House Support

Headshot of The Health Law Firm attorney George F. Indest, IIIBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On March 12, 2019, the Florida House of Representatives’ Health Quality Subcommittee voted 15 to 2 to approve House Bill 19 (HB 19) that would implement one of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recently announced health care proposals. In February 2019, the new Florida governor, who was criticized for not having a health care platform while he campaigned, announced the proposal that Florida start importing drugs from Canada.

HB 19 -Prescription Drug Importation Programs.

HB 19 was created for the purpose of safely importing cost-effective prescription drugs from Canada and other foreign nations under specified conditions. The proposed program would go into effect on July 1, 2019.

HB 19 provides eligibility criteria for prescription drugs and program participants; provides distribution requirements; provides annual reporting requirements; provides application and permitting requirements for certain participating entities; and provides that implementation of International Prescription Drug Importation Program is contingent on federal arrangement or obtaining federal guidance. Click here for more information on HB 19.

Two Programs, One Goal – Lowering Prescription Drug Prices.

The program will offer access to FDA-approved prescription drugs imported from Canada, allowing the drugs to be sold to Floridians at a much lower cost than they could otherwise purchase them here. “One of the biggest drivers of this country’s out of control healthcare spending is the cost of prescription drugs,” said Governor DeSantis.

According to the bill, the U.S. spends 30 to 190% more than other developed countries on prescription drugs, and up to 174% more for the exact same for prescription drugs. The proposed bill aims to lower these unnecessary high costs by establishing two different drug importation programs.

The first program would allow the state to import prescription drugs from Canada for use by the Florida Medicaid Program and prison health care system. It would be known as the Canadian Drug Importation Program. It would be run by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).

The second program would be known as the International Drug Importation Program. It would be run by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and would be available to individual residents.

Despite gaining house support, both programs would still need approval from the federal government before they could be implemented in Florida.

To learn more about Gov. DeSantis’ proposal, click here to read his press release.

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 please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Sexton, Christine. “DeSantis prescription drug savings plan gets early House support.” Orlando Sentinel. (March 12, 2019). Web.

News Service of Florida. “DeSantis Drug Importation Plan Wins House Support.” Sunshine State News. (March 13, 2019). 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: Legal representation for pharmacies, representation of health care professionals, health law defense attorney, doctor attorney, nurse attorney, Legal Defense for Pharmacists, pharmacy defense attorney, representation for pharmacists, representation for pharmacies, Department of Health defense attorney, DOH investigation representation, quality assurance representation, DEA investigation, DEA attorney, DEA representation, prescription E-FORSCE representation, DEA defense lawyer, representation for overprescribing, Medicare investigation lawyer, representation for Medicaid investigation, representation for health care professionals, license defense lawyer, licensure representation, board representation attorney, representation for board investigations, whistleblower representation, qui tam representation, whistleblower attorney, whistleblower defense attorney, qui tam attorney, qui tam defense lawyer, representation for license defense, licensure defense attorney, protecting your professional license, Florida opioid crisis, Florida’s ongoing lawsuit for opioid crisis The Health Law Firm, Florida health law attorney, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys

“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Sues Walgreens, CVS For Alleged Role in Helping Create and Increase Opioid Crisis

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

On November 19, 2018, the state of Florida announced that it is suing pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS over their role in what it calls “unconscionable efforts to increase and expand the ongoing opioid crisis in Florida.” State Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office announced that it added the two companies to a lawsuit filed in May 2018, against opioid distributors and manufacturers.

The Supply and Demand Problem with Opioids.

The state alleges that the two chains are responsible for overselling addictive opioids, as well as not taking precautionary measures to stop illegal sales, helping to inflate the supply and demand. The companies join Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, as well as several other opioid distributors, as defendants in the lawsuit.

In a news release, Bondi noted that the companies failed to stop “suspicious orders of opioids” and “dispensed unreasonable quantities of opioids from their pharmacies.” Click here to read the press release.

As the Opioid Crisis Continues, So Do the DEA Investigations.

Both companies have previously paid to resolve Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) allegations and have shelled out millions to settle allegations involving stores in Florida. In 2018, Walgreens agreed to pay $80 million to resolve a DEA investigation into inadequate record keeping and diversion related to opioids, according to the suit. Likewise, CVS agreed to pay $22 million in 2015 to resolve DEA allegations that its pharmacists were filling fake prescriptions for opioids and other drugs. Click here to read the amended complaint in full.

In the last decade, law enforcement has cracked down on opioid prescriptions and pill mill operations. Florida ‘s lawsuit comes at a time when more than 1,000 state and local governments across the U.S. are pursuing civil cases against opioid-makers and distributors.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs on this topic.

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 please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Sullivan, Emily. “Florida Sues Walgreens, CVS For Alleged Role In Opioid Crisis.” NPR. (November 19, 2018). Web.

Peters, Xander. “Florida files lawsuit against Walgreens, CVS for allegedly ‘playing a role’ in opioid crisis.” Orlando Weekly. (November 19, 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: Legal representation for pharmacies, representation of health care professionals, health law defense attorney, doctor attorney, nurse attorney, Legal Defense for Pharmacists, pharmacy defense attorney, representation for pharmacists, representation for pharmacies, Department of Health defense attorney, DOH investigation representation, quality assurance representation, DEA investigation, DEA attorney, DEA representation, prescription E-FORSCE representation, DEA defense lawyer, representation for overprescribing, Medicare investigation lawyer, representation for Medicaid investigation, representation for health care professionals, license defense lawyer, licensure representation, board representation attorney, representation for board investigations, whistleblower representation, qui tam representation, whistleblower attorney, whistleblower defense attorney, qui tam attorney, qui tam defense lawyer, representation for license defense, licensure defense attorney, protecting your professional license, Florida opioid crisis,  Florida’s ongoing lawsuit for opioid crisis The Health Law Firm, Florida health law attorney, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys

“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.

Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Blocks Shipping of Controlled Substances at Walgreens Distribution Center in Florida

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

On September 14, 2012, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) blocked the Walgreens distribution center in Jupiter, Florida, from shipping oxycodone and other controlled drugs to its pharmacies in Florida and the East Coast with an immediate suspension order, according to the DEA. In the press release, the DEA called the Walgreens distribution facility an “imminent danger” to the public.

To see the entire press release from the DEA, click here.

Back in April 2012, the DEA served an administrative inspection warrant at the same facility, as well as its six top retail Walgreens pharmacies in Florida. To see my blog post on that story, click here.

DEA Suspension Order Only Stops the Distribution of Controlled Substances.

The DEA said the Jupiter distribution center has been “the single largest distributor of oxycodone products in Florida” since 2009. The DEA issued the suspension order because it believes Walgreens failed to maintain proper controls to ensure its retailers didn’t dispense drugs to addicts and drug dealers.

The order only applies to the Jupiter distribution center and only suspends the distribution of controlled substances.

Whether or not bath salts fall into this category is unclear. The Florida Legislature recently banned the sale of bath salts and 90 other substances to help stop the big face-eating zombie outbreak in Florida. See my blog on bath salts and the zombie outbreak in Florida.

Recently, the DEA revoked the controlled substance licenses from two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida. The two stores are accused of dispensing an inappropriate number of prescriptions for oxycodone and had a suspicious number of sales of other controlled substances. There is a blog on this story on our website, click here to read it.

Millions of Oxycodone Pills Purchased by Walgreens Stores.

According to a USA Today article, six of Walgreens’ Florida pharmacies allegedly ordered more than a million oxycodone pills a year. One pharmacy in Oviedo, Florida, went from ordering more than 80,000 oxycodone pills in 2009, to nearly 1.7 million in 2011.

Click here to read the USA Today article
.

Continued War on Prescription Drug Abuse.

According to the DEA, this is an effort to curb Florida’s prescription drug epidemic. Special Agent Mark Trouville, with the DEA’s Miami Division, said all DEA licensees “have an obligation to ensure that medications are getting into the hands of legitimate patients. When they choose to look the other way, patients suffer and drug dealers prosper.”

Neither Agent Trouville nor the DEA was, apparently, requested to comment on the bath salts ban and its effect on the zombie outbreak, however.

Oxycodone Numbers Published for Shock Value.

I really do not see why the public or our elected representatives are shocked and awed by the meaningless numbers and statistics used in connection with these matters. The fact that Walgreens, the biggest pharmacy retailer in Florida, might distribute over a million oxycodone pills in a year, is a meaningless statistic by itself. If a doctor prescribes a pain management patient a prescription for three (3) pills a day, that is approximately 90 pills per month or 1,080 pills per year. If Walgreens has only 1,000 patients with such a prescription in a year throughout the entire state of Florida, that is in excess of one million (1,000,000) pills per year. I would venture to guess that many single Walgreens retail stores have more than 1,000 customers per day, much less all Walgreens stores throughout Florida.

My point is that any such statistics are meaningless out of context and are only meant to sound huge of one doesn’t stop and think about it.

Another concern is that many, if not the vast majority of the Walgreens customers who now will not be able to get their prescriptions filled, are legitimate pain management patients with legitimate prescriptions written by legitimate physicians.

Where Do Legitimate Chronic-Pain Patients Turn?

I am constantly being contacted by patients who are in dire straits, suffering because they cannot locate a pharmacy to fill their legitimate pain medicine prescriptions. These include injured military veterans, patients who are 100% disabled and on disability or social security, patients injured in automobile accidents and job-related accidents (whose medications are paid for by insurance, if they can find a pharmacy to fill it) and others with real chronic pain issues.

If the largest legitimate chains of pharmacies in the state and nation are not allowed to fill these prescriptions, where will these suffering patients turn? Are these actions driving our citizens into the hands of shady independent pharmacies that have fewer safeguards and less accountability? Are these actions driving our citizens to seek out illegal drug dealers and turn to illegal drugs to cope with their legitimate medical problems? I hope not.

Thank you. I will get off my soapbox now.

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.

Sources:

Leinwand, Donna. “DEA Inspects Walgreens for Oxycodone Probe.” USA Today. (September 15, 2012). From: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012/09/14/walgreens-and-oxycodone/57782912/1

Pavuk, Amy. “DEA Blocks Controlled-Substance Distribution at Florida Walgreens Facility.” Orlando Sentinel. (September 14, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-09-14/news/os-walgreens-dea-suspension-20120914_1_distribution-center-dea-miami-field-division

DEA. “DEA Serves a Suspension Order on Walgreens Distribution Center in Jupiter, Florida.” DEA.gov. (September 14, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/dea/divisions/mia/2012/mia091412.shtml

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. He does not own stock in Walgreens or any other pharmacy.

“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.

Doctor Sentenced to Almost 27 Years in Prison for Pill Mill Charges

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

A doctor was sentenced to almost 27 years in prison on July 24, 2013, according to the Sun Sentinel. The former doctor, Sergio Rodriguez, had worked as a pediatrician at Children Plus Health Center near Palm Beach County, Florida. He was charged with operating a pill mill out of his office. He pleaded guilty to four counts of manslaughter, four counts of conspiracy to traffic oxycodone, one count of racketeering and one count of money laundering.

Click here to read the entire Sun Sentinel article.

Doctor Prescribed Pain Pills to Undercover Detectives.

Dr. Rodriguez is accused of illegally prescribing pain killers out of his office. He was initially arrested in 2008. Investigators claim the doctor did not have the proper training to prescribe the pain medications, but did so anyway. According to the Sun Sentinel, the doctor would prescribe oxycodone, methadone and xanax to patients, including undercover detectives, without an examination.

A Palm Beach, Florida, judge approved a plea agreement for Dr. Rodriguez. Under the agreement, the doctor reportedly admitted responsibility for the deaths of four people in early 2008. According to court documents, Dr. Rodriguez relinquished his license to practice medicine in the state of Florida in 2009.

Click here to read the administrative complaint against Dr. Rodriguez.

Civil Forfeiture of Property and Money: A New Weapon in the Government’s Arsenal Against Health Fraud and Pill Mills.

Dr. Rodriguez was also ordered to pay $200,000 in fines, and court costs. He will also be responsible for forfeiting $87,000, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Recently we have seen government prosecutors and agencies, including the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), the U.S. Attorney General’s (AG) Office, and local sheriff and police departments use the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act against health professionals and health facilities in health-related cases. A prompt, aggressive defense to these actions may often recover the property or funds seized and, more importantly, a good defense can be used to help resolve any pending criminal charges. To read more on the forfeiture of property and money, click here to read a previous blog.

Legal Tips for Physicians to Manage Pain Patients.

Doctors, pharmacists and all healthcare professionals who are involved in schemes relating to overprescribing or trafficking in narcotics may be targeted by many different agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The DEA will often use undercover agents and informants to pose as patients, wired for audio recording. The DEA will often work with local law enforcement authorities and the Department of Health (DOH). Other investigations and arrests may be initiated by a statewide prosecutor’s office, which is under the AG. Still others have been initiated by the MFCU where Medicaid funds are used.

To avoid any legal actions altogether, we advise our physician clients to follow a simple list of suggestions in order to protect themselves from drug-seeking patients. Click here to see an article on our website with tips on how to help manage pain patients.

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, pain management doctors, dentists, pharmacists, 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 (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of Dr. Rodriguez’s sentence? As a health care professional, how do you manage pain patients? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Freeman, Marc. “Former Doctor Sentenced to 27 Years for Overdose Deaths.” Sun Sentinel. (July 25, 2013). From: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2013-07-25/news/fl-doctor-overdose-deaths-plea-deal-20130725_1_sergio-rodriguez-former-doctor-children-plus-health-center

Muczyner, Michael. “Lake Worth Pediatrician Sentenced to Prison for Pill Mill Charges.” CBS 12 News. (July 25, 2013). From: http://cbs12.com/news/top-stories/stories/vid_9076.shtml

Department of Health v. Sergio Rodriguez, M.D. Case Number 2008-20504. Final Order. January 7, 2011. From: http://ww2.doh.state.fl.us/DocServiceMngr/displayDocument.aspx

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.

Walgreens Files a Petition to Lift the Immediate Suspension Order

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

There’s a firefight brewing between Walgreens and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). On October 10, 2012, Walgreens filed a petition asking a federal judge to lift the Immediate Suspension Order (ISO) that bans its distribution center in Jupiter, Florida, from shipping controlled substances to its stores in Florida and on the East Coast.

Back on September 14, 2012, the DEA issued an ISO on the distribution center, calling it an “imminent danger” to the public. Click here to read a blog I previously wrote when the DEA issued the ISO.

Walgreens Claims the DEA Ignored Relevant Information.

In its petition, Walgreens claims the DEA ignored and “conspicuously omitted” recent and relevant information in its ISO. The pharmacy said it took voluntary steps designed to address concerns about the number of new prescriptions for controlled substances presented by pain clinic patients. Earlier this year the company also voluntarily stopped selling all Schedule II drugs, including OxyContin, at eight pharmacies that were of concern to the DEA and that were serviced by the Jupiter distribution center. Walgreens claims as a result of these efforts, the number of oxycodone pills and pain clinic prescriptions filled in recent months is an extremely small percent of the 2011 numbers, on which DEA relied upon to issue the ISO.

Walgreens is asking the federal appeals court to clear the ISO against the distribution center.

To see the Orlando Sentinel article, click here.

 

Numbers Released for Mean Nothing.

In an earlier blog I wrote that according to the DEA, six of Walgreens’ Florida pharmacies allegedly ordered more than a million oxycodone pills a year. That number might seem big at first, but after breaking it down, it’s actually not all that scary. You have to remember that Walgreens is the biggest pharmacy retailer in Florida.

For example, if a doctor issues a pain management patient a prescription for three (3) pills a day, that is approximately 90 pills per month or 1,080 pills per year. If Walgreens has only 1,000 patients with such a prescription in a year throughout the entire state of Florida, that is in excess of one million (1,000,000) pills per year. I would guess that many single Walgreens retail stores have more than 1,000 customers per day, much less all Walgreens stores throughout Florida.

My point is that such statistics are meaningless out of context and are only meant to sound huge if one doesn’t stop and think about it.

Click here to see the press release from the DEA with the number of oxycodone pills purchased by store.

 

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 the appeal? Should the DEA have taken this action against Walgreens? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

 

Source:

Pavul, Amy. “Walgreens Fights Back Against DEA, Wants Ban at Florida Distribution Center Lifted.” Orlando Sentinel. (October 11, 2012). From: ttp://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-walgreens-dea-oxycodone-20121011,0,1860346.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. He does not own stock in Walgreens or any other pharmacy.

 

“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.

Shortage of Florida Physicians Approved to Recommend “Green Leaf Relief” for Patients

George F. Indest III, Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

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

Florida may be “going green” in a big way come November 2016; and I’m not talking about recycling.  The Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, or Ballot Initiative Amendment 2, has undergone revisions, and will likely be making its second run with voters since its marginal loss in 2014.  Promoters of the Constitutional Amendment predict success; hopefully this isn’t just a pipe dream.

However, the Florida Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act of 2014, currently allows low-THC cannabis to be utilized only by qualifying patients for certain medical ailments.  A licensed physician, as outlined in Chapter 458 or 459 of Florida Statutes, is required to qualify patients for the use of medical marijuana.

For FAQ’s on low-THC cannabis issued by the Florida Department of Health (DOH), click here.

Physician Requirements for Qualifying Patients and Ordering.

For a patient to qualify to obtain and use THC, a previously approved physician must examine and currently be treating a patient for a debilitating illness.  Such illnesses include cancer or any physical medical condition or ailment that produces chronic seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms (such as epilepsy or multiple sclerosis).  Furthermore, the physician must have tried all other options of treatment without satisfactory results.  Medical marijuana must be a last resort alternative.  Section 381.986(2), Florida Statutes (2015).

One of the physician ordering requirements is that the doctor must “register as the orderer of low-THC cannabis for the named patient on the compassionate use registry maintained by the department [of health] and update the registry to reflect the contents of the order.”  Section 381.986(2)(c), Florida Statutes (2015).

In order to become registered in Florida, licensed physicians must successfully complete an 8-hour course, offered by either the Florida Medical Association (FMA) or the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association (FOMA).  It is necessary for the physician to satisfactorily pass an examination upon completion of the course.  Section 381.986(4), Florida Statutes (2015).

Currently, only 42 doctors varied throughout Florida in areas to include Orlando, Pensacola, Tallahassee and Jacksonville, have signed up for authorization.

Why the Lack of Physicians?

Several theories may account for the lack of physician involvement in the program in Florida.

One of the theories that may explain why physicians are hesitant to jump on board with this new-age line of treatment, is the lack of scientific research conducted in the United States to back the medical efficacy of medical marijuana.  Scientists are reluctant to answer even the most basic questions about the use of medical marijuana including the long-term risks, actual benefits and the overall effect of legalization.

Many physicians may be concerned that the use of medical marijuana is supported more by popular opinion than on actual medical research.

However, a primary reason for insignificant research may be due to the unavailability of the drug for scientific study due to its illegal status.  The federal government entirely restricts the authorization to use marijuana for medical research.  The media is replete with stories on this.  As the debate over marijuana and its legalization for medical use becomes more widespread and pertinent, the drug has concurrently become more available for research.

For more information on current medical marijuana research efforts as reported by U.S.A. Today, click here.

Who Will Dispense the Marijuana?

Another hold-up in support from physicians may be due to the fact that the Department of Health (DOH) is still in the process of selecting the five dispensing organizations throughout Florida that will be developing and dispensing the drug.

As originally proposed, this requires an arduous application process presently consisting of proposals from 24 competing companies.  A dispensing organization must have the ability to meet several requirements as set forth in the statues, including the financial ability to post a $5 million performance bond upon approval.  Section 381.986(5)(b), Florida Statutes (2015).

Many physicians are still waiting to know where the drugs will be dispensed, what the dosages will be, what forms they will be available in and how much they will cost.  These are all important factors to consider in determining whether or not medical marijuana may be beneficial to certain patients.

Penalties for Misuse.

A final reason for physician avoidance of marijuana is fear of criminal prosecution and discipline by their boards, given the lingering gray areas of the law.

To read one of our previous blogs regarding a federal judge’s challenge of the DOJ’s incorrect interpretation of federal law on medical marijuana prosecutions and a win for medical marijuana advocates across the nation, click here.

It is undisputed that the use of medical marijuana is on the rise.  Therefore, any licensed physician who is contemplating or has already signed up for the program, needs to be sure they are in strict compliance with Florida law.

A physician is committing a misdemeanor, which may result in criminal penalties, if he or she orders low-THC cannabis for a patient without possessing a reasonable belief that the patient is suffering from one of the debilitating medical conditions as described in Section 381.986(3)(a)(1) and (2), Florida Statutes.

It is one of the ongoing duties of the dispensing organizations established by the Department to “monitor physician registration and ordering of low-THC cannabis for ordering practices that could facilitate unlawful diversion or misuse of low-THC cannabis and take disciplinary action as indicated.”  Section 381.986(5)(b)(7)(c), Florida Statutes (2015).

Therefore, a physician interested in obtaining authorization to order medical marijuana for his or her patients, should contact an experienced health attorney as a safeguard to ensure he or she complies fully with the law.

Comments?

Why do you believe there is a lack of physician involvement in Florida in the medical marijuana program?  What are your thoughts on the availability of medical marijuana in Florida?

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.

The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 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., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

Sources:

Powers, Scott.  “Medical-pot backers unfazed only 42 doctors in program.”  Orlando Sentinel 20 August 2015: Final.  Print.

Caputo, Mark.  “Medical marijuana supporters unveil new proposal for 2016.”  Miami Herald.  8 January 2015.  Web.  27 August 2015.

Keywords: medical marijuana lawyer, marijuana attorney, low-THC cannabis, medical cannabis, complaint against physician, Florida law, health attorney, doctor defense attorney Department of Health, Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, disciplinary action for prescribing, medical marijuana regulations, prescribing controlled substances, physicians recommending marijuana, health regulation lawyer, medical license defense attorney, The Health Law Firm, health law attorney, DEA defense lawyer, medical marijuana ordering physician, compassionate-use in Florida, physician certifications for medical marijuana, cannabis for treatment of debilitating medical condition

“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 © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Investigates Six Walgreens Pharmacies in Florida

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) served an Order to Show Cause (OSC) on a Fort Myers Walgreens pharmacy on February 21, 2013. According to the DEA, the OSC was served as a notice to provide Walgreens with an opportunity to show cause as to why their DEA registration should not be revoked. The Fort Myers pharmacy is one of six Walgreens pharmacies to be targeted for prescribing practices by the DEA.

Click here to read the press release from the DEA.

According to the DEA, these investigations are part of an effort to curb Florida’s prescription drug epidemic.

Six Walgreens Pharmacies and One Distribution Center Targeted by DEA.

In April 2012, the DEA served and Administrative Inspection Warrant (AIW) on the Fort Myers Walgreens pharmacy, as well as five other Walgreens pharmacies in Florida and its distribution center in Jupiter. According to the DEA, the AIWs were served to determine if the pharmacies were dispensing prescriptions for legitimate medical purposes.

Based on the DEA’s findings, the Walgreens distribution center was served with an immediate suspension order (ISO). Click here to read our previous blog on the ISO served on the distribution center.

Between November 2012 and February 2013, the DEA has served OSCs on six Florida Walgreens pharmacies.

According to an article in Naples News, no action has been taken against the stores’ licenses, so they are still able to fill prescriptions pain medications and controlled substances. An administrative hearing will be held in April 2013. The hearing is an opportunity for Walgreens to present their cases. To read the entire Naples News article, click here.

Two CVS Stores in Sanford, Florida Lost Controlled Substance Licenses.

In September 2012, the DEA revoked the controlled substance licenses from two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida. The two stores are accused of dispensing an inappropriate number of prescriptions for oxycodone and had a suspicious number of sales of other controlled substances. There is a blog on this story on our website, click here to read it.

The Ultimate Results of Such Crackdowns.
I am constantly being contacted by patients who are in dire straits, suffering because they cannot locate a pharmacy to fill their legitimate pain medicine prescriptions. These include injured military veterans, patients who are 100% disabled and on disability or social security, patients injured in automobile accidents and job-related accidents (whose medications are paid for by insurance, if they can find a pharmacy to fill it) and others with real chronic pain issues.

If the largest legitimate chains of pharmacies in the state and nation are not allowed to fill these prescriptions, where will these suffering patients turn? Are these actions driving our citizens into the hands of shady independent pharmacies that have fewer safeguards and less accountability? Are these actions driving our citizens to seek out illegal drug dealers and turn to illegal drugs to cope with their legitimate medical problems? I hope not.

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 these investigations on big pharmacies? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Drug Enforcement Administration. “DEA Serves an Order to Show Cause on Walgreen’s Pharmacy in Fort Myers.” Drug Enforcement Administration. (February 22, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/dea/divisions/mia/2013/mia022213a.shtml

Freeman, Liz. “DEA Targets Fort Myers Walgreens, 5 Other State Stores.” Naples News. (March 7, 2013). From: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2013/mar/07/dea-targets-fort-myers-walgreens-5-other-state/?print=1

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. He does not own stock in Walgreens or any other pharmacy.

 

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.

Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Serves Up Immediate Suspension Order for Walgreens Distribution Center

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

On September 14, 2012, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) blocked the Walgreens distribution center in Jupiter, Florida, from shipping oxycodone and other controlled drugs to its pharmacies in Florida and the East Coast with an immediate suspension order, according to the DEA. In the press release, the DEA called the Walgreens distribution facility an “imminent danger” to the public.

To see the entire press release from the DEA, click here.

Back in April 2012, the DEA served an administrative inspection warrant at the same facility, as well as its six top retail Walgreens pharmacies in Florida. To see my blog post on that story, click here.

DEA Named the Distribution Center “Largest Distributor of Oxycodone Products in Florida.”

The DEA said the Jupiter distribution center has been “the single largest distributor of oxycodone products in Florida” since 2009. The DEA issued the suspension order because it believes Walgreens failed to maintain proper controls to ensure its retailers didn’t dispense drugs to addicts and drug dealers.

The order only applies to the Jupiter distribution center and only suspends the distribution of controlled substances.

Whether or not bath salts fall into this category is unclear. The Florida Legislature recently banned the sale of bath salts and 90 other substances to help stop the big face-eating zombie outbreak in Florida. See my blog on bath salts and the zombie outbreak in Florida.

Recently, the DEA revoked the controlled substance licenses from two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida. The two stores are accused of dispensing an inappropriate number of prescriptions for oxycodone and had a suspicious number of sales of other controlled substances. There is a blog on this story on our website, click here to read it.

Six Walgreens Pharmacies Allegedly Purchased Millions of Oxycodone Pills.

According to a USA Today article, six of Walgreens’ Florida pharmacies allegedly ordered more than a million oxycodone pills a year. One pharmacy in Oviedo, Florida, went from ordering more than 80,000 oxycodone pills in 2009, to nearly 1.7 million in 2011.

Click here to read the USA Today article.

DEA Continues to Fight Prescription Drug Abuse in Florida.

According to the DEA, this is an effort to curb Florida’s prescription drug epidemic. Special Agent Mark Trouville, with the DEA’s Miami Division, said all DEA licensees “have an obligation to ensure that medications are getting into the hands of legitimate patients. When they choose to look the other way, patients suffer and drug dealers prosper.”

Neither Agent Trouville nor the DEA was, apparently, requested to comment on the bath salts ban and its effect on the zombie outbreak, however.

 Meaningless Numbers Used for Shock and Awe.

I really do not see why the public or our elected representatives are shocked and awed by the meaningless numbers and statistics used in connection with these matters. The fact that Walgreens, the biggest pharmacy retailer in Florida, might distribute over a million oxycodone pills in a year, is a meaningless statistic by itself. If a doctor prescribes a pain management patient a prescription for three (3) pills a day, that is approximately 90 pills per month or 1,080 pills per year. If Walgreens has only 1,000 patients with such a prescription in a year throughout the entire state of Florida, that is in excess of one million (1,000,000) pills per year. I would venture to guess that many single Walgreens retail stores have more than 1,000 customers per day, much less all Walgreens stores throughout Florida.

My point is that any such statistics are meaningless out of context and are only meant to sound huge of one doesn’t stop and think about it.

Another concern is that many, if not the vast majority of the Walgreens customers who now will not be able to get their prescriptions filled, are legitimate pain management patients with legitimate prescriptions written by legitimate physicians.

Crackdowns Leave Pain Patients to Suffer.

I am constantly being contacted by patients who are in dire straits, suffering because they cannot locate a pharmacy to fill their legitimate pain medicine prescriptions. These include injured military veterans, patients who are 100% disabled and on disability or social security, patients injured in automobile accidents and job-related accidents (whose medications are paid for by insurance, if they can find a pharmacy to fill it) and others with real chronic pain issues.

If the largest legitimate chains of pharmacies in the state and nation are not allowed to fill these prescriptions, where will these suffering patients turn? Are these actions driving our citizens into the hands of shady independent pharmacies that have fewer safeguards and less accountability? Are these actions driving our citizens to seek out illegal drug dealers and turn to illegal drugs to cope with their legitimate medical problems? I hope not.

Thank you. I will get off my soapbox now.

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.

Sources:

Leinwand, Donna. “DEA Inspects Walgreens for Oxycodone Probe.” USA Today. (September 15, 2012). From: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012/09/14/walgreens-and-oxycodone/57782912/1

Pavuk, Amy. “DEA Blocks Controlled-Substance Distribution at Florida Walgreens Facility.” Orlando Sentinel. (September 14, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-09-14/news/os-walgreens-dea-suspension-20120914_1_distribution-center-dea-miami-field-division

DEA. “DEA Serves a Suspension Order on Walgreens Distribution Center in Jupiter, Florida.” DEA.gov. (September 14, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/dea/divisions/mia/2012/mia091412.shtml

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. He does not own stock in Walgreens or any other pharmacy.

“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.

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