Sarasota Sheriff Wants Patients to Waive HIPAA Privacy Rights

By Danielle M. Murray, J.D.

Law enforcement has been working hard to bust pill mills and stop prescription drug abuse. Pharmacists and pain management doctors are under intense scrutiny by various law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Health (DOH), for their role in giving out controlled substances.

“Doctor shopping” is a common phrase used to describe patients who see multiple doctors in a short period of time in an attempt to dupe doctors into giving them prescriptions for controlled substances. Doctors have been hampered somewhat by HIPAA privacy laws and have been unable to report suspicious patients to law enforcement agencies.

Sarasota County has a solution for that. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the county has devised a form, entitled “Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information,” and distributed it to pain management physicians. This form is to be signed voluntarily by patients and would allow doctors to discuss concerns with law enforcement. According to the sheriff’s office, the form intended to be limited to the patient’s name and the doctor’s concerns, and not to allow the release of medical records or other protected information.

To see the form for yourself, click here.

Physicians Not In Favor of the Form.

Critics say that the form is a blatant violation of patient rights and is simply a way for law enforcement to get around constitutional protections, such as search warrants.

It appears that some physicians agree with the critics. Not a single waiver has been returned to the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office.

In a Sarasota Herald-Tribune article, a pain management clinic owner states that his clients sign a contract that waives their rights if the clinic is approached by an investigator. He states “I understand HIPAA and am a firm believer in their rights, but if they’re doing something illegal, they’re jeopardizing my license.”

To see the full article from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, click here.

Providers are at Risk.

The clinic owner is correct. Providers are at risk for their patients’ inappropriate prescription use. We have seen cases where providers are faced with criminal and civil liability when a patient overdoses on medication, whether intentional or not.

Click here to read a previous blog post on one Florida doctor who gave up his license due to allegations of malpractice and overprescribing pills.

In Orlando, Florida, a drug trafficking ring used fake prescriptions to access drugs at pharmacies around the city, and the responsible pharmacists are now facing disciplinary action for filling those prescriptions. There is a major crackdown underway to stop pill mills.

Recently the Polk County Sheriff’s Office issued 25 arrest warrants in connections to a pill mill investigation (click here to read the blog on this story). The big pharmacy chains are getting hit as well. A Walgreens distribution center in Florida was recently served with an immediate suspension order from the DEA (click here for that blog), and the DEA also pulled the controlled substance licenses from two Central Florida CVS Pharmacies (click here to read more).

Do Not Violate HIPAA.

Providers must be careful not to violate HIPAA. HIPAA violations may also result in administrative and civil action against you and your license, especially if the patient can prove they were damaged by the leak. A patient who was arrested due to the provider’s HIPAA violation would likely be able to show damages and cause action against the provider’s license.

You can read more on HIPPA violations on our two-part blog series. Click here to read part one and click here to read part two.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Defending HIPAA Complaints and Violations.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in investigating and defending alleged HIPAA complaints and violations and in preparing Corrective Action Plans (CAPs).

For more information about HIPAA violations, electronic health records or corrective action plans (CAPs) please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

What do you think of the “Authorization of Release of Protected Health Information” form? Do you think it goes too far? Please submit any thoughtful comments below.

Source:

Williams, Lee. “Sheriff wants doctors to have patients sign away rights.”  Sarasota Herald-Tribune. (October 1, 2012). From: http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20121001/ARTICLE/121009975/2416/NEWS?p=all&tc=pgall 

About the Author: Danielle M. Murray is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, 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.

Most Physicians Not Using the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

By Danielle M. Murray, J.D.

The Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program is apparently collecting dust as physicians are choosing not to use it. The Tampa Bay Times reported on October 5, 2012, that as few as one in twelve doctors have ever used the database. That is about eight percent (8%) of all physicians. Approximately fourteen percent (14%) of physicians are registered for the database.

Click here to read the entire story from the Tampa Bay Times.

Physicians Don’t Want to Use the Database.

Physicians interviewed for the article said the problem is that database use is not mandatory. Physicians are not required to review the database prior to accepting a new patient, or prior to giving out a prescription.  Some physicians said they would ask the pharmacy or check the local arrest records if they had a suspicion that the patient was abusing drugs or “doctor shopping.”

One potential reason that physicians may not check the database is simply that they don’t want to know.  If they know a patient is abusing prescription drugs, then that patient has to be sent away, and that is a loss of business. Another reason could be some doctors may not know the database exists, and other doctors may simply be too busy to bother.

In Some States the Database Is Mandatory.

The prescription drug database in Kentucky had a similar usage problem until the state made it mandatory for physicians to check the database.  A mandatory law in Ohio resulted in shock when physicians saw the reality of the large number of prescription drug abusers in their practices.

For the foreseeable future, using the database will not be mandatory for physicians. However, physicians should consider using the database, or otherwise remaining vigilant to avoid being labeled an overprescriber.

For legal tips for working with pain patients, click here.

Does the Database a Make it Easier to Prosecute?

From my perspective, I have seen the database in Florida used mostly as a tool for prosecution of pain management physicians and pharmacists. Even in cases where the pharmacist has been the one to notify the authorities of suspected forged prescriptions and where the pharmacist has cooperated in prosecuting the criminals, I have seen this database cited as evidence against him or her. I do not believe this is what the legislation intended.

Contact an Attorney Experienced in Department of Health (DOH) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Investigations.

As a health care professional, you may one day be charged with overprescribing narcotics or even criminally charged in the death of a patient due to their drug habits. If you are contacted by the Department of Health (DOH) or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), do not sign anything or make any statements to anyone. Call an experienced health law attorney to learn about your rights in such a case.

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

Comments?

As a physician, do you use the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program? Why or why not? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Source:

Cox, John Woodrow, “Florida Drug Database Intended to Save Lives is Barely Used by Doctors.” Tampa Bay Times. October 7, 2012. http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/florida-drug-database-intended-to-save-lives-is-barely-used-by-doctors/1255062

About the Author: Danielle M. Murray is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, 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.

Tightened Restrictions Placed on Pain Management Clinics in Seminole County

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

Seminole County, Florida, is the latest county to adopt tightened regulations for pain management clinics. On November 13, 2012, County Commissioners unanimously voted to adopt the ordinance enacting Chapter 186 of the Seminole County Code to establish regulations regarding pain management clinics.

Click here to read the entire Seminole County Ordinance.

County Commissioners hope these new regulations will aid law enforcement in fighting illegal pill mill operations in Florida.

Officials Believe Restrictions Will Help Prevent Overprescribing.

The ordinance requires clinics to get a license, produce monthly reports on how many prescriptions are issued for controlled substances and report patient information, such as a patient’s address. This only applies to practices where doctors issue prescriptions for painkillers such as oxycodone to more than 20 patients a day. It does not pertain to hospitals and other major medical facilities.

Anyone violating the regulations can be charged with a misdemeanor and lose his or her business license.

Restrictions Have Doctors Upset.

The Orlando Sentinel interviewed a Boca Raton doctor who specializes in pain management. The doctor reportedly believes the regulations are helping to curb drug overdoses, but stated the regulations also limit legitimate board-certified medical specialists. He believes many Florida doctors are ready to move out of the Sunshine State and go to another state with fewer regulations.

To read the Orlando Sentinel article, click here.

Other Cities and Counties in Central Florida That Have Voted to Regulate Pain Management Clinics.

At the end of October 2012, Osceola County Commissioners voted to adopt a similar ordinance. I wrote previously wrote about that story, click here to read that blog.

In addition to Osceola County, Winter Park, Sanford, Oviedo and Maitland have opted to enact ordinances that regulate pain management clinics’ location and operation.

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?

As a healthcare professional, what do you think of this ordinance? Have you thought about leaving Florida due to the new regulations? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Comas, Martin. “Seminole Tightens Regulations for Pain Management Clinics.” Orlando Sentinel. (November 13, 2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/seminole/os-pain-management-clinics-seminole-20121112,0,7626282.story

Seminole County Government. “Ordinance Chapter 186.” Seminole County Government. (November 13, 2012). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/Pain%20Management%20Ordinance.pdf

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.

The DEA’s War on Pain Management

The Health Law Firm George F. Indest III HeadshotWithin the last few years, raids on pain management clinics, as well as pharmacies, have been increasingly commonplace. The doctors, pharmacists, nurses and other health care professionals involved are carted away in handcuffs and must defend their practice.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, a South Florida pain management clinic has recently been shut down under emergency action by the Florida Department of Health (DOH). Several health care professionals at the clinic were arrested, their licenses revoked.

In this instance, the charges against these health care employees are not completely unwarranted. Patients confessed to authorities that members of the clinic knew they were shopping for drugs, and an employee revealed that he was asked to recruit patients by promising powerful drugs.

However, it is not uncommon for a pain management clinic or related practice to face investigation, especially in Florida. Federal and state agencies are doing everything and anything they can to prevent drug farming, which means a crackdown on health care providers. Dubbed “Operation Pill Nation,” this strict enforcement means more worries for health care professionals, who now must monitor patient needs under the DEA’s close watch.

If your medical practice specializes in pain management or a similar area, have a plan in place in the event that the DEA comes knocking on your door. Be aware of health lawyers that are familiar with these cases and can defend you in the event of a DEA raid. These proceedings are often very complicated, and you’ll want an experienced team of health law attorneys to properly defend you from criminal charges.

At The Health Law Firm, our team of lawyers specialize in the representation of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners and other health care professionals involved in Department of Health, Diversion Control and Drug Enforcement Administration in Florida and throughout the United States. For more information about our knowledge in the practice of health law and DEA cases read our article on Pain Management and the DEA.

Multiple States Move to Enact New Laws Related to Controlled Substances

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

In reports from both coasts, three states have recently made moves to tighten monitoring and prescribing of controlled substances. Legislators in California, Pennsylvania and Kentucky are contemplating new actions. Health professionals should take note, these prescription drug monitoring programs can, and will be, used as a prosecution tool.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs by State.

According to the Los Angeles Times, California is looking to utilize its prescription drug monitoring program CURES to find physicians who are a little too loose with the prescription pad. Lawmakers are contemplating mining the data compiled by CURES to find physicians who are overprescribing and take action against them. Click here to read the entire Los Angeles Times article.

The Pennsylvania house recently forwarded a bill from committee to the floor for a final vote. The bill would establish a monitoring program like those in California, Florida and Kentucky. This monitoring program would be used to combat abuse and doctor shopping by identifying patients that have already received an adequate supply of medications.

Kentucky, already the home of some tough prescription drug laws, is looking to fine tune its regulatory scheme. According to The Courier-Journal, the new bill would clarify existing regulations by providing medical exemptions for patients that would otherwise be wrapped up in the enforcement provisions. To learn more on the proposed changes to Kentucky’s prescription drug laws, click here.

You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide from Prescription Drug Monitoring.

Lawmakers in all three states cited laws and regulations from other states as inspiration for the moves to consider new laws to monitor prescriptions of controlled substances. What this means is that whatever state you may be in, you should be aware that lawmakers are looking around the country at what works and are implementing similar programs and laws in their governments.

Are Databases Just a Tool for Prosecution?

Enforcement of drug laws and prescribing regulations has been ever increasing in recent years. The implementation of these databases and corresponding regulations are going to provide more tools for law enforcement and state medical boards to crack down on physicians. In order to avoid trouble it is crucial that you take time to review your state’s prescribing and record keeping laws with an experienced health care attorney.

From experience, we have seen the database in Florida used mostly as a tool for prosecution of pain management physicians and pharmacists. Even in cases where the pharmacist has been the one to notify the authorities of suspected forged prescriptions and where the pharmacist has cooperated in prosecuting the criminals, I have seen this database cited as evidence against him or her. I do not believe this is what the legislation intended. Physicians and pharmacists should consider using whatever database is implemented in their respective states, or otherwise remaining vigilant to avoid being labeled an overprescriber.

To read legal tips to manage pain patients, click here.

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?

Does the state where you are located have a prescription drug monitoring program? Is it similar to any of programs we mentioned in this blog? What do you think of these programs? Are they necessary? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Girion, Lisa and Glover, Scott. “Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris Urges Funding for Prescription Tracking.” Los Angeles Times. (March 3, 2013). From: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2013/03/attorney-general-kamala-harris-funding-prescription-database-.html

Wynn, Mike. “Kentucky Legislature Overhauls Prescription Drug Law.” The Courier-Journal. (March 4, 2013). From: http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013303040093&nclick_check=1

Associated Press. “Lawmakers Mull Prescription Drug Monitoring.” Associated Press. (March 4, 2013). From: http://meadvilletribune.com/local/x986702017/Lawmakers-mull-prescription-drug-monitoring

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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

New Florida Drug Database Aimed at Preventing Drug Abuse

Recently, Florida pharmacists, physicians and pain management clinics have received negative attention over frequent Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids. Now, Florida is once again in the spotlight as the state has launched a drug database in an attempt to reduce drug abuse perpetuated by visits to the doctor.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, this database will allow physicians and pharmacists to review a patient’s prescription history before issuing prescriptions for painkillers like OxyContin and other powerful drugs.

These preventative measures are not new to Florida health care providers. After garnering a reputation for frequent drug trafficking, proliferated by pain management clinics, the state passed legislation banning many doctors from dispensing dangerous controlled substances in their offices.

Currently, use of the database is not mandatory, but legislators are hoping to make it a requirement in the future. Both the Florida Medical Association and the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association are urging members to retrieve information from the database before writing prescriptions.

With this new database, physicians, pharmacists and pain management clinics can help prevent visits from the DEA and Department of Health (DOH). Instead of writing prescriptions for powerful painkillers every time a patient comes calling, doctors can now judge whether a patient is really in need or abusing drugs. Being able to see every instance that a patient has filled a prescription for drugs like OxyContin and Valium will allow physicians and pharmacists to understand the whole picture If a patient is shopping around for drugs, it will be made apparent.

Keep the DEA from your practice by taking every precaution, including querying the database before writing or administering a prescription. For more information on DEA cases see this article about defending yourself in the event of an investigation. Pharmacists can learn about more legal matters concerning their profession here.

Number of Oxycodone-Related Deaths Down in Florida

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

It looks like Florida’s prescription drug legislation, the statewide prescription drug monitoring database and the prescription drug crackdowns by law enforcement may be working, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The FDLE states in its semi-annual report, oxycodone-related deaths statewide dropped between January and June of 2012, compared to the same period of time in 2011. A look at the national numbers shows that the number of people abusing prescription drugs is also down.

Florida and National Numbers.

In the first half of 2012, there were 759 oxycodone-related deaths in Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel. That number is down from 1,058 during the same time period a year before. The Orlando Sentinel states that nationwide 7 million people abused prescription drugs in 2010. By 2011, that number had dropped to 6.1 million. Studies also show prescription drug use among young adults ages 18 to 25 is also on the decline. The Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation Director believes these numbers are down because young people are realizing these drugs are dangerous and can be deadly.

Click here to read the entire article from the Orlando Sentinel.

Florida Cracks Down on Prescription Drug Abuse.

Previously, Florida was known as a state where drug addicts and dealers could easily find a pill mill or go doctor shopping to get prescription drugs. In the past two years, Florida state leaders and law enforcement officials have stepped up regulations and made serious crackdowns on doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies.

In April 2013, a Lake Mary doctor was sentenced to 25 years in prison for trafficking prescription drugs. Click here to read that story. In December 2012, a fake prescription drug ring was busted in Osceola County. To read that story, click here. In June 2012, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Florida law enforcement announced operation “Pill Street Blues” targeting doctors and clinic owners across Florida. Click here to read more.

Health Care Professional Must Stay Ahead of Patients with Chronic Pain.

Even though the number of people abusing prescription drugs is down, state regulatory boards, private certification boards and federal agencies are not going to ease up. Many physicians in practice today are eschewing multi-disciplinary approaches to treating chronic pain in favor of monotherapies with narcotic medications.

These physicians do this at their own peril. In our practice we see many physicians in trouble with state medical boards and law enforcement officials because of their prescribing practices. If you treat patients with chronic pain it is imperative that you stay ahead of them. Click here to read a blog on legal tips for health care professionals to 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?

Do you think the new legislation, the state prescription drug monitoring database and the crackdowns by law enforcement are making a difference in the war against prescription drugs? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “‘We Can Stop This Epidemic,’ CDC Boss Says at Rx-Drug Abuse Summit in Orlando.” Orlando Sentinel. (April 2, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-prescription-drug-abuse-summit-20130402,0,4693169.story

Pavuk, Amy. “Drug-Related Deaths Plunge in First Half of 2012.” Orlando Sentinel. (March 25, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-drug-deaths-down-20130325,0,6750345.story

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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

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

Florida Doctor Arrested for Drug Sales and Other Criminal Charges

Drug trafficking charges against a medical doctor are not a new concept, especially in Florida. Recent pill mill busts throughout the state have resulted in an omnipresent DEA, always on the lookout for illegal drug sales by pharmacies, pharmacists, pain management clinics and physicians. However, the recent arrest of a Central Florida doctor extends beyond the run of the mill “pill mill” bust, as the accusations in this case involve sex with a minor and delivering a controlled substance to a minor.

According to Florida Today, this Central Florida doctor was arrested Tuesday following a raid by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. This is his second arrest after he was charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in August.

Tuesday’s arrest resulted from evidence of the doctor’s sexual relationship with a high school student. The doctor was arrested in 2009 after being caught during a traffic stop with bags of marijuana in his car and allegedly having a sexual relationship with the 16-year-old passenger. Although charges were not filed after the girl recanted her evidence and claimed the marijuana was hers, that didn’t put an end to a steady stream of younger girls going into the clinic. According to residents of the area surrounding the clinic, girls were frequently seen going to see the doctor dressed in revealing attire. Aside from teenage patients, residents reported often seeing a line out to the street for people waiting to get into the clinic, a possible indicator of drug trafficking.

Although his medical license has been suspended, this Florida doctor has yet to receive broader drug trafficking charges, despite his huge prescription distribution numbers. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, this doctor prescribed 250,000 oxycodone pills in the first eight months of 2011. Compared to the entire state of California, which had 300,000 oxycodone prescriptions in the last six months of 2010, it is evident that this Florida doctor had a major painkiller operation. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is calling him one of the worst offenders in the state of Florida. Upon further investigation, this doctor and anyone who may have assisted him in the drug trafficking of oxycodone may be charged for this offense.

While the possibility of drug trafficking charges is enough to scare any physician, other criminal charges can be equally damaging, especially depending on how the accused individuals plea to the charges. A health professional’s plea of nolo contendere, which may seem like the safe route, is actually treated the same as a plea of guilty for all purposes. There are ways to defend criminal charges (like the ones against the aforementioned Florida doctor) that can result in a more favorable outcome (e.g., attempting to obtain pre-trial diversion, pre-trial intervention or drug court), but legal advice should be sought from an attorney who frequently represents health care providers before any actions are pursued. To learn more about criminal charges against doctors and other health professionals see this recent post or visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Drug Enforcement Administration Agents Raid Central Florida Pain Management Clinic

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

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents along with local police and sheriffs’ deputies raided a Longwood, Florida, pain management clinic on June 14, 2013. According to the Orlando Sentinel, agents searched for evidence at the clinic associated with multiple doctors. DEA agents stated the clinic was operating as a “pill mill” and allegedly diverting legal prescriptions for illegal purposes. No one was arrested during the raid. Longwood is a suburb of Orlando.

Investigation Spreads to South Florida.

According to WESH-TV, during the raid agents took everything from the clinic that could help them build a criminal prosecution. This included paper records, computer equipment and prescription drugs. DEA agents would not say how many people they were investigating, but they did say this raid was the result of a two-year long investigation.

In addition to the Longwood pain clinic, DEA agents said they are also searching locations in Brevard County, Florida, where associates of the Longwood clinic allegedly live.

To watch the WESH-TV report, click here.
Two Doctors Associated With the Longwood Clinic Allegedly “Blacklisted” by Pharmacy.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, two doctors associated with the Longwood clinic were allegedly “blacklisted” in 2011, by CVS Pharmacy. This means that CVS notified those physicians that the pharmacy chain would no longer fill prescriptions they wrote for certain drugs such as oxycodone, due to suspiciously high prescribing rates. To read a previous blog on the CVS blacklist, click here.

Click here to read the entire Orlando Sentinel article.

The Longwood pain clinic is currently closed. Whether this will be temporary or permanent is unknown at this time.

Different Clinic, Similar Storyline.

This raid on the Longwood clinic is just one of the many we’ve recently seen in Florida. DEA agents and local law enforcement officials are not slowing down in their fight against illegal pill mills, and illegal prescribing and dispensing practices. To read a blog on two Orlando-area pharmacists recently arrested on charges of alleged drug trafficking, click here. Even the biggest pharmacy chains are not immune to investigations. Walgreens just agreed to pay $80 million to settle a DEA investigation into the chain’s dispensing practices of prescription drugs. To read more, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases and Licensing Actions.

The Health Law Firm represents physicians, pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies.
If you are aware of an investigation of you or your practice, or if you have been contacted by the DEA or DOH, contact an experienced health law attorney immediately.

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 about all of these raids on pharmacies and pain clinics? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

McDaniel, Dave. “Agents Raid Longwood Pain Clinic.” WESH-TV. (June 14, 2013). From: http://www.wesh.com/news/central-florida/seminole-county/agents-raid-longwood-pain-clinic/-/17597106/20572512/-/item/0/-/afpnwwz/-/index.html

Pavuk, Amy. “Agents Raid Longwood Pain Clinic.” Orlando Sentinel. (June 14, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-professional-pain-care-raid-20130614,0,3826330.story#tugs_story_display
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.

CVS Refuses to Fill Prescriptions For Some Florida Doctors

The crack down on Florida pill mills continues with CVS pharmacies notifying some doctors that they no longer will fill their prescriptions for certain narcotic medications.

According to Health News Florida, this new policy appears to be limited to Florida, but CVS has not clearly stated what is being used to determine which doctors can have their prescriptions filled for which drugs (though oxycodone definitely appears to be a target).

The Florida Academy of Pain Management, released a letter via email alert that was sent by CVS to a Central Florida physician. The physician who received the letter had never been disciplined by state medical regulators and had extensive pain management training. The email alert, stated that CVS appears to “have initiated an internal program where they are profiling physicians’ controlled substance prescribing habits and possibly their patients’ prescriptions.”

A spokesperson for CVS said that the company is refusing to fill prescriptions for a “small number of Florida physicians” and is supporting measures by federal and state law enforcement officials to “keep controlled substances out of the wrong hands.”

While some pain physicians have not received a letter, they have been told by patients that they are being analyzed by CVS for writing prescriptions for narcotics, especially a specific combination of medications with high potential for abuse — oxycodone, Xanax and Soma. This trio has been widely prescribed at pill mills.

Although the actions taken by CVS may be extreme, other pharmacies and pharmacists are increasingly hesitant about filling certain prescriptions. With pain killers now responsible for more than seven overdose deaths a day in Florida, there is reason to be cautious, and pharmacists are professionally obligated not to fill prescriptions they find questionable.

However, stricter regulations on pain clinics, pain management physicians and prescription writing has left patients who face real pain unable to obtain necessary medication. Legitimate patients are being punished for the actions of a small group of corrupt practitioners.

Florida must find a way to get out of the Catch-22 in which the state is currently entangled. Yes, prescription drug abuse is a problem, but so is the real pain faced by many patients.

For more information on legal matters concerning pain clinics and pain management physicians, visit www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

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