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

DOJ Drops Charges in Appalachia Opioid Case After Supreme Court Ruling

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

On August 12, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it dropped charges against the remaining defendants in a case against a former Ohio drug distributor. In 2019, Miami-Luken, two of its executives, and two pharmacists were charged with unlawfully conspiring to distribute millions of addictive painkillers across rural Appalachia.

The Original Indictment.

The DOJ issued an indictment against the five defendants in 2019 and charged all with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. It alleged Miami-Luken had sent millions of Class II and III narcotic painkillers to pharmacies that served rural towns in Appalachia. The indictment said that this occurred from about 2008 to 2015 when the opioid crisis was at its height.

During that time, the government alleged that Miami-Luken sent over “six million doses” of drugs to a West Virginia pharmacy and “regularly exceeded the internal threshold limit” set for that area. The charges were tied to alleged violations of the Controlled Substances Act. For more information about the charges, read the DOJ’s press release.

In a lengthy motion to dismiss, the former drug distributor said the claims were not clearly prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act and said the case was “the first time that the DOJ has relied on Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) guidance letters interpreting a federal statute — the Controlled Substances Act — as the basis for a criminal prosecution.”

Pharmacy Fraud Cases using gavel and stethoscope with spilled opioid pills

As an aside, I note that the DEA (and when DOJ is representing it, DOJ adopts the same tactic) routinely engages in what I call “bean counting” to exaggerate the perception of the seriousness of the matter. They do this by counting the number of individual pills prescribed or dispensed when, overall, it really is not that significant. Let’s say a hypothetical patient suffering from chronic pain

is prescribed 20 mg of a narcotic medication thrice daily. Such prescriptions are normally written for a thirty (30) day supply. The DEA (and sometimes the DOJ) will multiply these out and allege the doctor prescribed 90 pills X 12 months or 1,080 pills. If the pharmacists did not have 20 mg size pills and filled it with 10 mg pills (doubling

the number of pills, but not the dosage), this doubles the number of pills to 2,160. It sounds like a tremendous number, but it is actually the average that would be prescribed for such a patient.

And then, when one considers that a pharmacy probably has thousands of patients each month who get their prescriptions filled, this greatly magnifies the number of individual pills. Then take it a step further, and consider a medical distributor that may be distributing medications to a hundred different individual drug stores. This multiplies out the number to a much greater one. Using a figure such as “six million pills distributed” sounds much more terrible than “three thousand patients received an average dosage of pills that were distributed through the drug distribution company.” Defense attorneys must do everything possible to eliminate or reduce the impact of such “bean counting” or “pill counting” in such cases.

In March 2021, U.S. District Judge Matthew W. McFarland of the Southern District of Ohio refused to toss the case, saying the motion was “premised on the mischaracterization of the crime.”

Unopposed Motion to Dismiss the Charges.

This time, Surprisingly, there was a motion by the DOJ to dismiss the case. Judge McFarland granted the government’s unopposed motion to dismiss the charges against the remaining defendants, including former Miami-Luken President Anthony Rattini, who died last year. Another former Miami-Luken executive had accepted a plea deal in December 2021.

View the government’s motion to dismiss the indictment without prejudice and stipulation.

View Judge McFarland’s order granting the motion to dismiss the indictment.

It’s important to note that the government did not specify why the charges were dropped; however, the move came shortly after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made such cases harder to prove. The decision in Ruan v. U.S. said that prosecutions under the Controlled Substances Act for excessive prescribing of opioids and other addictive drugs must show that doctors knew they lacked a legitimate medical purpose.

Click here to read my previous blog to learn more about this topic.

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 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 hearings at 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:

Weld, Elliot. “Appalachia Opioid Charges Dropped After High Court Ruling.” Law360. (August 12, 2022). Web.

Raymond Nate. “Opioid distributor Miami-Luken, execs seek dismissal of indictment.” Reuters. (May 1, 2020). Web.

Overley, Jeff. “DOJ Indicts Opioid Distributor, Execs Over Painkiller Sales.” Law360. (July 18, 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620

Attorney Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm is always looking for qualified attorneys interested in the practice of health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a member of The Florida Bar and are interested, forward a cover letter and your resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax 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.

2022-09-07T23:39:52-04:00September 7th, 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

Colorado Board of Pharmacy Must Hand Over Patient Identifying Data to DEA Says Judge

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On April 22, 2020, a federal judge ordered the Colorado Board of Pharmacy to give the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) prescription drug monitoring program data on two pharmacies that the DEA is investigating. The data includes patient identifying information of more than 14,000 patients. The state must turn over the data by May 15, 2020, according to the order.

Pharmacy Investigations.

Citing concerns about the two pharmacies’ handling of controlled-substance prescriptions, the DEA issued subpoenas under the Controlled Substances Act in 2019. The DEA requested the information as part of an investigation into whether the two unnamed pharmacies broke the law in dispensing opioids and other drugs.

Clash Over Patient Privacy.

The DEA’s requested information is kept under the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program or PDMP. For controlled-substance prescriptions, Colorado pharmacies and pharmacists are required by state law to report information that includes the names of patients, their doctors, and pharmacies.

Colorado state officials refused to release the data citing patient privacy concerns. The DEA’s “overly broad, undifferentiated demand for access would violate the Fourth Amendment right to privacy guaranteed to more than 14,000 patients whose medical data is at issue,” the state said.

According to the order, the Colorado statute allows the prescription-monitoring data to be disclosed but only to specific recipients including in response to law enforcement subpoenas. However, the state argued that the Colorado statute only applies to a “bona fide investigation of a specific individual.”

To read about a similar case involving a DEA investigation into pharmacy prescription practices, click here to read my prior blog.

The Decision.

U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore denied Colorado’s objections to the DEA’s subpoenas for the prescription data including patients’ information such as names, birth dates, and addresses. The judge said the DEA has shown that the requested information is relevant and needed for the ongoing investigation of the two pharmacies, and no warrant is needed to obtain it. The order directs the Colorado Board of Pharmacy and Patty Salazar, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) to provide the data to the DEA no later than May 15, 2020.

To read the court’s order in full, click here.

For more information, click here to read the press release issued from the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado.

States Must Act to Protect the Integrity of Such Programs.

State prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) were sold to pharmacists and physicians based on a promise that they were solely for the purpose of protecting patients from overdoses and preventing “doctor shopping” by dishonest, drug-seeking patients. Inherent in these programs was the promise that they would not be used for the purpose of prosecuting or charging physicians or pharmacists, in criminal proceedings or administrative proceedings, based on their contents. Most of the state laws that authorized the creation of PDMPs specifically forbid their use in such cases. This was required in order to get physicians and state medical societies to buy off on them.

Yet here we are. We see this over and over. the Federal government and federal agencies obtaining copies of these reports from the state and using them as direct evidence against physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and pharmacies, despite the prohibition of the state statutes.

Moreover, not only does this subvert the purpose behind creating such databases, but then it runs afoul of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and similar provisions of most state constitutions. The doctor or pharmacist is required by law to report the prescriptions to the PDMP, but then the federal agency turns right around and uses it as evidence against the individual who reported it.

The feds take the position: “We do not care why you, the state, authorized it or what its purpose was supposed to be. If we want to take that information and use it for something else, something that was specifically prohibited by the state, then we will do it.”

Until state pharmacy associations and medical associations do something to tighten up the state legislation that created the PDMPs, this situation is not likely to change. The feds will continue to use the state PDMPs to prosecute and to take administrative actions to revoke the DEA registrations of physicians, pharmacists, pharmacies, and other health professionals.

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

We routinely provide legal representation to pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians and other health providers. We defend in state and federal administrative hearings, investigations, and litigation. We represent health professionals in formal and informal administrative hearings. We have a great deal of experience in defending against DEA actions.

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. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Zegers, Kelly. “Colo. Must Give DEA Pharmacy Data With Patient Info.” Law360. (April 20, 2020). Web.

Ingold, John. “Why the DEA is suing Colorado’s pharmacy board as part of an opioid investigation.” The Colorado Sun. (November 11, 2019). Web.

Pazanowski, Mary Ann. “Colorado Pharmacy Board Must Give DEA Patient-Identifying Info.” Bloomberg Law. (April 22, 2020). 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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 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.

2021-02-17T16:04:11-05:00May 4th, 2021|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Judge in Colorado Says Board of Pharmacy Must Hand Over Patient Identifying Data to DEA

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On April 22, 2020, a federal judge ordered the Colorado Board of Pharmacy to give the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) prescription drug monitoring program data on two pharmacies that the DEA is investigating. The data includes patient identifying information of more than 14,000 patients. The state must turn over the data by May 15, 2020, according to the order.

Pharmacy Investigations.

Citing concerns about the two pharmacies’ handling of controlled-substance prescriptions, the DEA issued subpoenas under the Controlled Substances Act in 2019. The DEA requested the information as part of an investigation into whether the two unnamed pharmacies broke the law in dispensing opioids and other drugs.

Clash Over Patient Privacy.

The DEA’s requested information is kept under the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program or PDMP. For controlled-substance prescriptions, Colorado pharmacies and pharmacists are required by state law to report information that includes the names of patients, their doctors, and pharmacies.

Colorado state officials refused to release the data citing patient privacy concerns. The DEA’s “overly broad, undifferentiated demand for access would violate the Fourth Amendment right to privacy guaranteed to more than 14,000 patients whose medical data is at issue,” the state said.

According to the order, the Colorado statute allows the prescription-monitoring data to be disclosed but only to specific recipients including in response to law enforcement subpoenas. However, the state argued that the Colorado statute only applies to a “bona fide investigation of a specific individual.”

To read about a similar case involving a DEA investigation into pharmacy prescription practices, click here to read my prior blog.

The Decision.

U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore denied Colorado’s objections to the DEA’s subpoenas for the prescription data including patients’ information such as names, birth dates, and addresses. The judge said the DEA has shown that the requested information is relevant and needed for the ongoing investigation of the two pharmacies, and no warrant is needed to obtain it. The order directs the Colorado Board of Pharmacy and Patty Salazar, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) to provide the data to the DEA no later than May 15, 2020.

To read the court’s order in full, click here.

For more information, click here to read the press release issued from the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado.

States Must Act to Protect the Integrity of Such Programs.

State prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) were sold to pharmacists and physicians based on a promise that they were solely for the purpose of protecting patients from overdoses and preventing “doctor shopping” by dishonest, drug-seeking patients. Inherent in these programs was the promise that they would not be used for the purpose of prosecuting or charging physicians or pharmacists, in criminal proceedings or administrative proceedings, based on their contents. Most of the state laws that authorized the creation of PDMPs specifically forbid their use in such cases. This was required in order to get physicians and state medical societies to buy off on them.

Yet here we are. We see this over and over. the Federal government and federal agencies obtaining copies of these reports from the state and using them as direct evidence against physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and pharmacies, despite the prohibition of the state statutes.

Moreover, not only does this subvert the purpose behind creating such databases, but then it runs afoul of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and similar provisions of most state constitutions. The doctor or pharmacist is required by law to report the prescriptions to the PDMP, but then the federal agency turns right around and uses it as evidence against the individual who reported it.

The feds take the position: “We do not care why you, the state, authorized it or what its purpose was supposed to be. If we want to take that information and use it for something else, something that was specifically prohibited by the state, then we will do it.”

Until state pharmacy associations and medical associations do something to tighten up the state legislation that created the PDMPs, this situation is not likely to change. The feds will continue to use the state PDMPs to prosecute and to take administrative actions to revoke the DEA registrations of physicians, pharmacists, pharmacies, and other health professionals.

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

We routinely provide legal representation to pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians and other health providers. We defend in state and federal administrative hearings, investigations, and litigation. We represent health professionals in formal and informal administrative hearings. We have a great deal of experience in defending against DEA actions.

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. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Zegers, Kelly. “Colo. Must Give DEA Pharmacy Data With Patient Info.” Law360. (April 20, 2020). Web.

Ingold, John. “Why the DEA is suing Colorado’s pharmacy board as part of an opioid investigation.” The Colorado Sun. (November 11, 2019). Web.

Pazanowski, Mary Ann. “Colorado Pharmacy Board Must Give DEA Patient-Identifying Info.” Bloomberg Law. (April 22, 2020). 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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 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.

2021-02-17T16:01:42-05:00April 13th, 2021|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Board of Pharmacy Must Hand Over Patient Identifying Data to DEA in Colorado

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On April 22, 2020, a federal judge ordered the Colorado Board of Pharmacy to give the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) prescription drug monitoring program data on two pharmacies that the DEA is investigating. The data includes patient identifying information of more than 14,000 patients. The state must turn over the data by May 15, 2020, according to the order.

Pharmacy Investigations.

Citing concerns about the two pharmacies’ handling of controlled-substance prescriptions, the DEA issued subpoenas under the Controlled Substances Act in 2019. The DEA requested the information as part of an investigation into whether the two unnamed pharmacies broke the law in dispensing opioids and other drugs.

Clash Over Patient Privacy.

The DEA’s requested information is kept under the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program or PDMP. For controlled-substance prescriptions, Colorado pharmacies and pharmacists are required by state law to report information that includes the names of patients, their doctors, and pharmacies.

Colorado state officials refused to release the data citing patient privacy concerns. The DEA’s “overly broad, undifferentiated demand for access would violate the Fourth Amendment right to privacy guaranteed to more than 14,000 patients whose medical data is at issue,” the state said.

According to the order, the Colorado statute allows the prescription-monitoring data to be disclosed but only to specific recipients including in response to law enforcement subpoenas. However, the state argued that the Colorado statute only applies to a “bona fide investigation of a specific individual.”

To read about a similar case involving a DEA investigation into pharmacy prescription practices, click here to read my prior blog.

The Decision.

U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore denied Colorado’s objections to the DEA’s subpoenas for the prescription data including patients’ information such as names, birth dates, and addresses. The judge said the DEA has shown that the requested information is relevant and needed for the ongoing investigation of the two pharmacies, and no warrant is needed to obtain it. The order directs the Colorado Board of Pharmacy and Patty Salazar, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) to provide the data to the DEA no later than May 15, 2020.

To read the court’s order in full, click here.

For more information, click here to read the press release issued from the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado.

States Must Act to Protect the Integrity of Such Programs.

State prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) were sold to pharmacists and physicians based on a promise that they were solely for the purpose of protecting patients from overdoses and preventing “doctor shopping” by dishonest, drug-seeking patients. Inherent in these programs was the promise that they would not be used for the purpose of prosecuting or charging physicians or pharmacists, in criminal proceedings or administrative proceedings, based on their contents. Most of the state laws that authorized the creation of PDMPs specifically forbid their use in such cases. This was required in order to get physicians and state medical societies to buy off on them.

Yet here we are. We see this over and over. the Federal government and federal agencies obtaining copies of these reports from the state and using them as direct evidence against physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and pharmacies, despite the prohibition of the state statutes.

Moreover, not only does this subvert the purpose behind creating such databases, but then it runs afoul of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and similar provisions of most state constitutions. The doctor or pharmacist is required by law to report the prescriptions to the PDMP, but then the federal agency turns right around and uses it as evidence against the individual who reported it.

The feds take the position: “We do not care why you, the state, authorized it or what its purpose was supposed to be. If we want to take that information and use it for something else, something that was specifically prohibited by the state, then we will do it.”

Until state pharmacy associations and medical associations do something to tighten up the state legislation that created the PDMPs, this situation is not likely to change. The feds will continue to use the state PDMPs to prosecute and to take administrative actions to revoke the DEA registrations of physicians, pharmacists, pharmacies, and other health professionals.

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

We routinely provide legal representation to pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians and other health providers. We defend in state and federal administrative hearings, investigations, and litigation. We represent health professionals in formal and informal administrative hearings. We have a great deal of experience in defending against DEA actions.

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. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Zegers, Kelly. “Colo. Must Give DEA Pharmacy Data With Patient Info.” Law360. (April 20, 2020). Web.

Ingold, John. “Why the DEA is suing Colorado’s pharmacy board as part of an opioid investigation.” The Colorado Sun. (November 11, 2019). Web.

Pazanowski, Mary Ann. “Colorado Pharmacy Board Must Give DEA Patient-Identifying Info.” Bloomberg Law. (April 22, 2020). 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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 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.

2021-02-17T15:53:15-05:00February 24th, 2021|Categories: Pharmacy Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Veterans Want Federal Court To Reconsider DEA Marijuana Classification

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

On October 1, 2020, military veterans urged the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) restrictive marijuana classification. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) said in an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief that designating the drug a highly controlled substance has impeded medical research that could save lives.

Marijuana Claimed to Be a “Life-saving Treatment” for Veterans.

IAVA’s brief focused on suicide rates among returning soldiers. The group claimed the current status of marijuana on the drug schedules, listing it as a Schedule I drug, one without any medical use, under federal law inhibits studies to demonstrate its potential in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to the IAVA’s brief, the Schedule I status of marijuana prevents the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and private practitioners from studying the benefits and risks of medical marijuana. This results in keeping life-saving treatment away from veterans suffering from PTSD who reside in states where they are not available.

The brief stated that 40% of veterans experience some form of PTSD that is not helped by treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In 2019, IAVA conducted a survey showing that 20% of respondents used marijuana for medicinal purposes. Additionally, 90% of survey respondents support expanding clinical research for medical uses, and 90% would use it if it were an option.

To read IAVA’s amicus brief in full, click here.

Click here to read my recent blog on a proposed medical marijuana research bill.

Schedule I Drug.

Marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug on the federal drug schedules. “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Some examples of Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Anyone viewing these drugs objectively would come to the conclusion that marijuana is simply not like the others.

It Is High Time for a Change.

Many veterans have returned from overseas combat severely affected by PTSD and other mental disorders. There is simply not enough available care through the VA to take care of them all. Moreover, many of these suffer from illnesses making them paranoid or suspicious of even seeking such care. Many are homeless. Many are able to function, some normal and some almost normally, by self-medicating with marijuana.

As more and more states authorize medical marijuana, the federal government should acknowledge that there is some benefit to its use and reclassify it. It is simply common sense. Too long has the public labored under the unjust and unsupportable assumption that incorrectly categorizes it as a Schedule I drug. It needs to be moved to Schedule V or Schedule IV. Medical bills would go down, drug bills would go down, and legitimate physicians, even federal physicians, would be allowed to prescribe it.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Regulatory Matters and Other Health Care Licensing Matters.

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. We represent health-related businesses and medical professionals in all types of licensing and regulatory matters, including state and federal administrative hearings.

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

Sources:

Reisman, Sam. “Veterans Urge 9th Circ. To Hear Challenge To DEA’s Pot Status.” Law360. (October 7, 2020). Web.

Jeager, Kyle. “Military Veterans Group Asks Federal Court To Hear Marijuana Case Challenging DEA Classification.” Marijuana Moment. (October 8, 2020). 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 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.

“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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Two FL Pill Mill Owners Get Prison Time For Illegal Distribution Of Opioids

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

On October 7, 2020, two owners of a medical practice in Tampa, Florida, were sentenced to federal prison time for their roles in the illegal distribution of opioids. U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven sentenced Ernest Gonzalez to 46 months and Rosa Colon to 24 months in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances for no legitimate medical purpose.

Plot to Illegally Distribute Controlled Substances.

According to court documents, Gonzalez served as the president and owner of Health and Pain Center (HPC), a Tampa pain management clinic. In June 2011, he transferred his executive title and ownership of HPC to Colon. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) obtained a warrant in October 2016, while both were active participants of the administration and management of HPC.

The two owners allegedly hired physicians at HPC, who routinely prescribed controlled substances to patients eeking pain mediciations. Federal authorities always allege that such prescriptions are “outside the scope of professional (medical) practice.” Additionally, the owners are alleged to have participated and facilitated the physicians’ illegal prescribing practices by instructing employees to overlook failed urinalysis screens that help to detect drug abusers.

According to court papers, the owners also obtained MRI studies and other documents that the physicians used to justify the high volume of opioid prescriptions. According to court documents, the owners operated HPC as a cash-only business with little to no medical equipment on-site and staff with no medical training.

The owners pled guilty on September 11, 2018. It is unclear as to why they were not sentenced until October 7, 2020. As part of their sentences, the court entered money judgments of $47,780.96 against Gonzalez and $765,356.76 against Colon. This was in addition to the prison time stated above.

The facts above are typical of those in other state and federal prosecutions against physicians, pharmacists, and clinic owners. If you are a physician who is working for a clinic owned by non-physicians, you need to be very careful that you are working for a legitimate organization. If you are being pressured to write prescriptions for narcotics for patients, you need to be very careful about what you do and why you do it. Often physicians who work for pill mills just bury their heads in the sand and rationalize why they are writing and refilling the same prescriptions for opioids month after month.

For the past ten years, in Florida, the DEA, the Department of Health, the state Attorney General, and multi-jurisdictional task forces have been targeting physicians who write prescriptions for narcotics and pharmacies that fill such prescriptions. There are very few left. The cross-hairs of the regulators and law enforcement are now targeting those who are involved in only very small quantities. Watch out, it could be you next!

View the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.

Read my prior blog and learn more about pill mills, here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cases, board of medicine cases, and board of pharmacy case, Department of Health (DOH) investigations, and Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) investigations, regarding allegations of over-prescribing and illegal prescribing. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse actions by the DEA or a state licensing board, contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Sources:

“Tampa Pill Mill Owners Sentenced To Prison For Illegal Distribution Of Opioids.” Tampa Free Press. (October 11, 2020). Web.

Otero, Sebastian. “Tampa pill mill owners sentenced to prison for illegal distribution of opioids.” ABC 7 WWSB. (October 8, 2020). 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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Veterans Urge Federal Court To Reconsider DEA Marijuana Classification

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

On October 1, 2020, military veterans urged the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) restrictive marijuana classification. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) said in an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief that designating the drug a highly controlled substance has impeded medical research that could save lives.

Marijuana Claimed to Be a “Life-saving Treatment” for Veterans.

IAVA’s brief focused on suicide rates among returning soldiers. The group claimed the current status of marijuana on the drug schedules, listing it as a Schedule I drug, one without any medical use, under federal law inhibits studies to demonstrate its potential in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to the IAVA’s brief, the Schedule I status of marijuana prevents the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and private practitioners from studying the benefits and risks of medical marijuana. This results in keeping life-saving treatment away from veterans suffering from PTSD who reside in states where they are not available.

The brief stated that 40% of veterans experience some form of PTSD that is not helped by treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In 2019, IAVA conducted a survey showing that 20% of respondents used marijuana for medicinal purposes. Additionally, 90% of survey respondents support expanding clinical research for medical uses, and 90% would use it if it were an option.

To read IAVA’s amicus brief in full, click here.

Click here to read my recent blog on a proposed medical marijuana research bill.

Schedule I Drug.

Marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug on the federal drug schedules. “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Some examples of Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Anyone viewing these drugs objectively would come to the conclusion that marijuana is simply not like the others.

It Is High Time for a Change.

Many veterans have returned from overseas combat severely affected by PTSD and other mental disorders. There is simply not enough available care through the VA to take care of them all. Moreover, many of these suffer from illnesses making them paranoid or suspicious of even seeking such care. Many are homeless. Many are able to function, some normal and some almost normally, by self-medicating with marijuana.

As more and more states authorize medical marijuana, the federal government should acknowledge that there is some benefit to its use and reclassify it. It is simply common sense. Too long has the public labored under the unjust and unsupportable assumption that incorrectly categorizes it as a Schedule I drug. It needs to be moved to Schedule V or Schedule IV. Medical bills would go down, drug bills would go down, and legitimate physicians, even federal physicians, would be allowed to prescribe it.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Regulatory Matters and Other Health Care Licensing Matters.

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. We represent health-related businesses and medical professionals in all types of licensing and regulatory matters, including state and federal administrative hearings.

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

Sources:

Reisman, Sam. “Veterans Urge 9th Circ. To Hear Challenge To DEA’s Pot Status.” Law360. (October 7, 2020). Web.

Jeager, Kyle. “Military Veterans Group Asks Federal Court To Hear Marijuana Case Challenging DEA Classification.” Marijuana Moment. (October 8, 2020). 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 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.

“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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Non-physician Pill Mill Owners in Tampa Sentenced To Prison Time For Illegal Distribution Of Opioids

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

On October 7, 2020, two owners of a medical practice in Tampa, Florida, were sentenced to federal prison time for their roles in the illegal distribution of opioids. U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven sentenced Ernest Gonzalez to 46 months and Rosa Colon to 24 months in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances for no legitimate medical purpose.

Plot to Illegally Distribute Controlled Substances.

According to court documents, Gonzalez served as the president and owner of Health and Pain Center (HPC), a Tampa pain management clinic. In June 2011, he transferred his executive title and ownership of HPC to Colon. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) obtained a warrant in October 2016, while both were active participants of the administration and management of HPC.

The two owners allegedly hired physicians at HPC, who routinely prescribed controlled substances to patients eeking pain mediciations. Federal authorities always allege that such prescriptions are “outside the scope of professional (medical) practice.” Additionally, the owners are alleged to have participated and facilitated the physicians’ illegal prescribing practices by instructing employees to overlook failed urinalysis screens that help to detect drug abusers.

According to court papers, the owners also obtained MRI studies and other documents that the physicians used to justify the high volume of opioid prescriptions. According to court documents, the owners operated HPC as a cash-only business with little to no medical equipment on-site and staff with no medical training.

The owners pled guilty on September 11, 2018. It is unclear as to why they were not sentenced until October 7, 2020. As part of their sentences, the court entered money judgments of $47,780.96 against Gonzalez and $765,356.76 against Colon. This was in addition to the prison time stated above.

The facts above are typical of those in other state and federal prosecutions against physicians, pharmacists, and clinic owners. If you are a physician who is working for a clinic owned by non-physicians, you need to be very careful that you are working for a legitimate organization. If you are being pressured to write prescriptions for narcotics for patients, you need to be very careful about what you do and why you do it. Often physicians who work for pill mills just bury their heads in the sand and rationalize why they are writing and refilling the same prescriptions for opioids month after month.

For the past ten years, in Florida, the DEA, the Department of Health, the state Attorney General, and multi-jurisdictional task forces have been targeting physicians who write prescriptions for narcotics and pharmacies that fill such prescriptions. There are very few left. The cross-hairs of the regulators and law enforcement are now targeting those who are involved in only very small quantities. Watch out, it could be you next!

View the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida.

Read my prior blog and learn more about pill mills, here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cases, board of medicine cases, and board of pharmacy case, Department of Health (DOH) investigations, and Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) investigations, regarding allegations of over-prescribing and illegal prescribing. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse actions by the DEA or a state licensing board, contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Sources:

“Tampa Pill Mill Owners Sentenced To Prison For Illegal Distribution Of Opioids.” Tampa Free Press. (October 11, 2020). Web.

Otero, Sebastian. “Tampa pill mill owners sentenced to prison for illegal distribution of opioids.” ABC 7 WWSB. (October 8, 2020). 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 © 2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

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