pharmacy defense attorney

Home/Tag: pharmacy defense attorney

Florida Compounding Pharmacy Reaches $21 Million Settlement to End FCA Kickback Suit

George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On September 19, 2019, a Florida compounding pharmacy reached a $21.4 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in the Southern District of Florida to resolve claims they orchestrated a $70 million kickback scheme. Diabetic Care Rx LLC, which does business as Patient Care America, and private equity firm Riordan Lewis & Haden Inc. agreed to pay to bring the False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit to a close.

According to the DOJ, the Florida pharmacy, two executives and the private equity firm schemed to recruit beneficiaries of Tricare for medically unnecessary prescriptions such as expensive pain creams.

Details of the Case.

The DOJ claimed PCA used marketers to help recruit beneficiaries of Tricare. They allegedly paid kickbacks to solicit medically unnecessary prescriptions for expensive compounded drugs that were filled by the pharmacy and then charged to Tricare.

As a result, the pharmacy allegedly billed Tricare about $68 million for compounded drugs over eight months in 2014 and 2015.
For more information, click here to read the press release issued by the DOJ.

The lawsuit resolved by the settlement was originally filed under the whistleblower (or “qui tam”) provisions of the False Claims Act by two former employees of PCA. To learn more about whistleblower or qui tam cases, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections, and audits. The Firm also represents both plaintiffs (whistle blowers or relators) and defendants in False Claims Act (whistleblower or qui tam) cases. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

Sources:

Stawiki, Steve. “Pharmacy, PE Fund Ink $21M Deal To End FCA Kickback Suit.” Law360. (September 20, 2019). Web.

Bolado, Carolina. “Pharmacy, PE Fund Near Deal To End Feds’ FCA Kickback Suit.” Law360. (July 1, 2019). Web.

“Compounding Pharmacy, Two of Its Executives, and Private Equity Firm Agree to Pay $21.36 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations.” Florida Record. (September 24, 2019). Web.

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

KeyWords: legal representation for pharmacists, legal representation for pharmacies, pharmacy defense attorney, pharmacist defense lawyer, representation for False Claims Act investigation, False Claims Act representation, FCA defense lawyer, board representation for pharmacists, board representation for pharmacies, board representation for physicians, Board of Pharmacy investigation representation, legal representation for board investigations, administrative hearing defense attorney, representation for administrative hearings, administrative complaint representation, Board of Medicine representation, Board of Medicine attorney, Board of Medicine defense attorney, representation for Board of Medicine investigations, representation for Board of Medicine complaints, DEA hearing defense attorney, DEA investigation attorney, DEA hearing representation, DEA investigation representation, representation for DEA investigations against physicians, representation for pill mill allegations, representation for allegations of overprescribing, representation for overbilling, DOJ defense lawyer, representation for DOJ investigations, representation for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Doctor Sentenced to 40 Years For Alleged Interstate Pill Mill

By Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D.

On October 2, 2019, a physician in Virginia received a 40-year prison sentence for illegally prescribing more than half a million opioid pills over 19 months. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia handed down the sentence to Joel Smithers, who reportedly operated a “pill mill” out of Virginia, according to authorities. In addition to prison time, he was given an $86,000 fine and will serve three years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison time, according to court documents.

The sentence is lighter than it could have been. He was facing up to life in prison and a fine of more than $200 million, according to officials at the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ). Click here to view the court’s sentencing document in full.

The Alleged Interstate Pill Mill Operation.

In May 2019, Smithers was convicted by a jury on more than 859 federal drug charges, including one count of possessing with the intent to distribute controlled substances and one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of unlawfully distributing controlled substances. Additionally, he was convicted on hundreds of counts of unlawfully distributing a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose or beyond the bounds of medical practice.

When he opened his Virginia practice in 2015, officials said he prescribed controlled substances to “every patient in his practice, resulting in over 500,000 Schedule II controlled substances being distributed.” Authorities say that he allegedly ran an operation that was less a medical practice and more an interstate drug distribution network.

Smithers was able to rake in over $700,000 in cash and credit card payments before the search warrant was executed at his office on March 7, 2017. Click here to read the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Virginia.

To learn about a similar case involving two Florida doctors, click here.


The Problems I See in This Case.

I tell you that I take issue with many of the cases of this sort. I do not know enough about the actual facts of this physician’s case, but I can comment generally based on other similar cases I have had in the past. The government, both state and federal, has come down like a hammer on individual physicians and pharmacists in its over-zealous campaign to crack down on opioids. Many physicians and pharmacists, just trying to do a good job and legitimately treat their patients, are being caught up and persecuted. Chronic pain patients, many of whom are disabled veterans or people injured on the job, are unable to find physicians to treat them anymore or, if they can, any pharmacists willing to fill their prescriptions.

All sorts of under-handed techniques are used to try to make a case against conscientious health professionals who are merely trying to do their jobs. These do include the tactic seen in the case we are reporting on, which I call “bean counting.” The government comes in and, instead of proving how many allegedly illegal prescriptions were written or how many patients the physician gave the prescriptions to, breaks these out into the number of pills. This greatly exaggerates the case and these large numbers alone make it look like the doctor (or pharmacist) is doing something wrong or extremely way out of the norm.

For example, if a patient was receiving a low dose of a pain killer, say 10 mg Oxycodone every 4 to 6 hours, prescribed for four times a day, the ordinary monthly prescription for this medication alone (and such patients rarely receive one type of medication alone) this equates to 120 pills per month. If 10 mg pills are not available and/or the prescription is filled with 5 mg pills, instead, this is 240 pills a month. A years’ worth is 1,440 pills or 2,880 pills for just one patient. If the physician has 50 similar patients, this is 72,000 pills or 144,000 pills a year that the physician is writing and a pharmacy or pharmacies are filling.

This does not seem extreme or unusual to me, at all, and these amounts are on the low side. Yet just as government agencies love to inflate the “street value” or contraband drugs they seize, they love to break down the number of opioids a physician writes so it seems to a layperson to be extraordinarily large. Furthermore, a pain management physician or any other kind of physician cannot survive with just 50 patients a month. It is far more likely for a physician to have a thousand (1,000) or more patients a month. I call this type of numerical exaggeration “bean counting.” But it has put a number of physicians and pharmacists in jail.

Judges should not allow such exaggerated numbers to be introduced into evidence in the absence of further information that places them in context. It is unfairly prejudicial to the defendant to do so.


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 cases regarding allegations of over-prescribing and illegal prescribing. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse actions by the DEA contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Booker, Brakkton. “Doctor Gets 40 Years For Illegally Prescribing More Than Half A Million Opioid Doses.” NPR. (October 2, 2019). Web.

“Virginia doctor could get life in prison today for prescribing 500,000 opioid pills.” RTV6. (October 2, 2019). Web.

Almasy, Steve. “Virginia doctor who illegally prescribed 500,000 opioid pills sentenced to 40 years in prison.” CNN. (October 2, 2019). Web.

About the Author: Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney and registered nurse. She practices with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its regional office is in the Northern Colorado, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 155 East Boardwalk Drive, Fort Collins, Colorado 80525. Phone: (970) 416-7456. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area.

KeyWords: legal representation for pain management physicians and pharmacists, legal representation for pharmacies, pharmacy defense attorney, pain management physician defense attorney, pharmacist defense lawyer, pain management physician defense lawyer, representation for False Claims Act (FCA) investigation, False Claims Act representation, FCA defense lawyer, board representation for pharmacists, board representation for pharmacies, board representation for physicians, Board of Pharmacy investigation representation, legal representation for board investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) defense attorney, board of medicine attorney, board of pharmacy attorney, Department of Health investigations, pain clinics, over prescribing painkillers, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation attorney, The Health Law Firm, administrative hearing defense attorney, DEA order to show cause (OSC) defense lawyer, legal representation for administrative hearings, administrative complaint representation, Board of Medicine representation, Board of Medicine attorney, Board of Medicine defense attorney, representation for Board of Medicine investigations, representation for Board of Medicine complaints, DEA hearing defense attorney, DEA investigation attorney, DEA hearing representation, DEA investigation representation, representation for DEA investigations against physicians, representation for pill mill allegations, representation for allegations of overprescribing, representation for overbilling, DOJ defense lawyer, representation for DOJ investigations, representation for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, DEA order to show cause (OSC) defense attorney

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2019-11-06T20:48:18+00:00November 6th, 2019|Categories: Colorado Health Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Physician Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison For Illegally Prescribing Opioid Pills

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

On October 2, 2019, a Virginia doctor received a 40-year prison sentence for illegally prescribing more than half a million opioid pills over 19 months. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia handed down the sentence to Joel Smithers, who was reported to have operated a “pill mill” out of Virginia, according to authorities. In addition to prison time, he was given an $86,000 fine and will serve three years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison time, according to court documents.

The sentence is lighter than it could have been. He was facing up to life in prison and a fine of more than $200 million, according to officials at the U.S. Justice Department. Click here to view the court’s sentencing document in full.

Alleged Interstate Pill Mill.

In May 2019, Smithers was convicted by a jury on more than 859 federal drug charges, including one count of possessing with the intent to distribute controlled substances and one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of unlawfully distributing controlled substances. Additionally, he was also convicted on hundreds of counts of unlawfully distributing a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose or beyond the bounds of medical practice.

When he opened his Virginia practice in 2015, Justice Department officials said he prescribed controlled substances to “every patient in his practice, resulting in over 500,000 Schedule II controlled substances being distributed.” Authorities say that he allegedly ran an operation that was less a medical practice and more an interstate drug distribution network.

Smithers was able to rake in over $700,000 in cash and credit card payments before the search warrant was executed at his office on March 7, 2017. Click here to read the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Virginia.

To learn about a similar case involving two Florida doctors, click here.

The Problems I See.

I tell you that I take issue with many of the cases of this sort. I do not know enough about the actual facts of this physician’s case, but I can comment generally based on other similar cases I have had in the past. The government, both state and federal, has come down like a hammer on individual physicians and pharmacists in its over-zealous campaign to crack down on opioids. Many physicians and pharmacists, just trying to do a good job and legitimately treat their patients, are being caught up and persecuted. Chronic pain patients, many of whom are disabled veterans or people injured on the job, are unable to find physicians to treat them anymore or, if they can, any pharmacists willing to fill their prescriptions.

All sorts of under-handed techniques are used to try to make a case against conscientious health professionals who are merely trying to do their jobs. These do include the tactic seen in the case we are reporting on, which I call “bean counting.” The government comes in and, instead of proving how many allegedly illegal prescriptions were written or how many patients the physician gave the prescriptions to, breaks these out into the number of pills. This greatly exaggerates the case and these large numbers alone make it look like the doctor (or pharmacist) is doing something wrong or extremely way out of the norm.

For example, if a patient was receiving a low dose of a pain killer, say 10 mg Oxycodone every 4 to 6 hours, prescribed for four times a day, the ordinary monthly prescription for this medication alone (and such patients rarely receive one type of medication alone) this equates to 120 pills per month. If 10 mg pills are not available and/or the prescription is filled with 5 mg pills, instead, this is 240 pills a month. A years’ worth is 1,440 pills or 2,880 pills for just one patient. If the physician has 50 similar patients, this is 72,000 pills or 144,000 pills a year that the physician is writing and a pharmacy or pharmacies are filling.

This does not seem extreme or unusual to me, at all, and these amounts are on the low side. Yet just as government agencies love to inflate the “street value” or contraband drugs they seize, they love to break down the number of opioids a physician writes so it seems to a layperson to be extraordinarily large. Furthermore, a pain management physician or any other kind of physician cannot survive with just 50 patients a month. It is far more likely for a physician to have a thousand (1,000) or more patients a month. I call this type of numerical exaggeration “bean counting.” But it has put a number of physicians and pharmacists in jail.

Judges should not allow such exaggerated numbers to be introduced into evidence in the absence of further information that places them in context. It is unfairly prejudicial to the defendant to do so.

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 cases regarding allegations of over-prescribing and illegal prescribing. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse actions by the DEA contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Booker, Brakkton. “Doctor Gets 40 Years For Illegally Prescribing More Than Half A Million Opioid Doses.” NPR. (October 2, 2019). Web.

“Virginia doctor could get life in prison today for prescribing 500,000 opioid pills.” RTV6. (October 2, 2019). Web.

Almasy, Steve. “Virginia doctor who illegally prescribed 500,000 opioid pills sentenced to 40 years in prison.” CNN. (October 2, 2019). Web.

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

KeyWords: legal representation for pain management physicians and pharmacists, legal representation for pharmacies, pharmacy defense attorney, pain management physician defense attorney, pharmacist defense lawyer, pain management physician defense lawyer, representation for False Claims Act (FCA) investigation, False Claims Act representation, FCA defense lawyer, board representation for pharmacists, board representation for pharmacies, board representation for physicians, Board of Pharmacy investigation representation, legal representation for board investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) defense attorney, board of medicine attorney, board of pharmacy attorney, Department of Health investigations, pain clinics, over prescribing painkillers, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation attorney, The Health Law Firm, administrative hearing defense attorney, DEA order to show cause (OSC) defense lawyer, legal representation for administrative hearings, administrative complaint representation, Board of Medicine representation, Board of Medicine attorney, Board of Medicine defense attorney, representation for Board of Medicine investigations, representation for Board of Medicine complaints, DEA hearing defense attorney, DEA investigation attorney, DEA hearing representation, DEA investigation representation, representation for DEA investigations against physicians, representation for pill mill allegations, representation for allegations of overprescribing, representation for overbilling, DOJ defense lawyer, representation for DOJ investigations, representation for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, DEA order to show cause (OSC) defense attorney

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2019-11-06T20:33:34+00:00November 6th, 2019|Categories: Pharmacy Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Compounding Pharmacy Agrees to Pay $21 Million to End FCA Kickback Suit

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

On September 19, 2019, a Florida compounding pharmacy reached a $21.4 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in the Southern District of Florida to resolve claims they orchestrated a $70 million kickback scheme. Diabetic Care Rx LLC, which does business as Patient Care America, and private equity firm Riordan Lewis & Haden Inc. agreed to pay to bring the False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit to a close.

According to the DOJ, the Florida pharmacy, two executives and the private equity firm schemed to recruit beneficiaries of Tricare for medically unnecessary prescriptions such as expensive pain creams.

Details of the Case.

The DOJ claimed PCA used marketers to help recruit beneficiaries of Tricare. They allegedly paid kickbacks to solicit medically unnecessary prescriptions for expensive compounded drugs that were filled by the pharmacy and then charged to Tricare.

As a result, the pharmacy allegedly billed Tricare about $68 million for compounded drugs over eight months in 2014 and 2015.
For more information, click here to read the press release issued by the DOJ.

The lawsuit resolved by the settlement was originally filed under the whistleblower (or “qui tam”) provisions of the False Claims Act by two former employees of PCA. To learn more about whistleblower or qui tam cases, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections, and audits. The Firm also represents both plaintiffs (whistle blowers or relators) and defendants in False Claims Act (whistleblower or qui tam) cases. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

Sources:

Stawiki, Steve. “Pharmacy, PE Fund Ink $21M Deal To End FCA Kickback Suit.” Law360. (September 20, 2019). Web.

Bolado, Carolina. “Pharmacy, PE Fund Near Deal To End Feds’ FCA Kickback Suit.” Law360. (July 1, 2019). Web.

“Compounding Pharmacy, Two of Its Executives, and Private Equity Firm Agree to Pay $21.36 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations.” Florida Record. (September 24, 2019). Web.

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

KeyWords: legal representation for pharmacists, legal representation for pharmacies, pharmacy defense attorney, pharmacist defense lawyer, representation for False Claims Act investigation, False Claims Act representation, FCA defense lawyer, board representation for pharmacists, board representation for pharmacies, board representation for physicians, Board of Pharmacy investigation representation, legal representation for board investigations, administrative hearing defense attorney, representation for administrative hearings, administrative complaint representation, Board of Medicine representation, Board of Medicine attorney, Board of Medicine defense attorney, representation for Board of Medicine investigations, representation for Board of Medicine complaints, DEA hearing defense attorney, DEA investigation attorney, DEA hearing representation, DEA investigation representation, representation for DEA investigations against physicians, representation for pill mill allegations, representation for allegations of overprescribing, representation for overbilling, DOJ defense lawyer, representation for DOJ investigations, representation for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida’s Prescription Drug Importation Plan Continues to Gain Support

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

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

HB 19 -Prescription Drug Importation Programs.

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

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

Two Programs, One Goal – Lowering Prescription Drug Prices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

Sources:

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

News Service of Florida. “DeSantis Drug Importation Plan Wins House Support.” Sunshine State News. (March 13, 2019). Web.

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

KeyWords: Legal representation for pharmacies, representation of health care professionals, health law defense attorney, doctor attorney, nurse attorney, Legal Defense for Pharmacists, pharmacy defense attorney, representation for pharmacists, representation for pharmacies, Department of Health defense attorney, DOH investigation representation, quality assurance representation, DEA investigation, DEA attorney, DEA representation, prescription E-FORSCE representation, DEA defense lawyer, representation for overprescribing, Medicare investigation lawyer, representation for Medicaid investigation, representation for health care professionals, license defense lawyer, licensure representation, board representation attorney, representation for board investigations, whistleblower representation, qui tam representation, whistleblower attorney, whistleblower defense attorney, qui tam attorney, qui tam defense lawyer, representation for license defense, licensure defense attorney, protecting your professional license, Florida opioid crisis, Florida’s ongoing lawsuit for opioid crisis The Health Law Firm, Florida health law attorney, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Alaska Board Sends Contradictory Letter to Pharmacists Over Filling Opioid Prescriptions (Part 1)

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

The “Opioid Crisis” in the U.S.

We all know that there is an “opioid crisis” in the U.S. It is probably prevalent in every state. In Florida we have been suffering under it for the past ten to fifteen years. So it is nothing new to Florida. Government regulators including, but not limited to the Florida Department of Health (DOH), Florida Attorney General (AG), different State’s Attorneys’ (prosecutors) offices, multi-jurisdictional task forces, local law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), along with federal prosecutors, have been involved in ongoing efforts in Florida for the past fifteen years or so, to shut down “pill mills” and attempt to eliminate the “opioid crisis.” Florida was, unfortunately, leading this trend.

The “Opioid Crisis;” Nothing New in Florida.

During this same period of time, my firm and I have been involved in defending physicians and pharmacists in criminal, civil, and administrative actions seeking to prosecute them, revoke their licenses, revoke their DEA registrations, terminate them from Medicaid participation, levy fines on them and other punitive actions. Florida was also, unfortunately, leading this trend.

So our opinions and comments in this blog, Part 1, and its Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5 are informed by long years of experience with something that is old news in Florida, but may be new news in other states.

Alaska Sends out its Warning to Pharmacists to Keep Filling Prescriptions for Opioids.

On January 23, 2019, the Chairman of the Alaska Board of Pharmacy sent out an open letter to Alaska pharmacists, discussing the negative effect on patient health that has arisen in response to the fact that many pharmacists have stopped filling prescriptions for opioids. From its tone, it warns pharmacists to keep filling such prescriptions under threat of possible disciplinary action against their licenses, at least that is my interpretation of it. Here is a copy you can read for yourself, click here.

The two-page letter begins by stating:
The [Alaska] Board of Pharmacy has had an influx of communication concerning patients not able to get controlled substance prescriptions filled for various reasons, even when signs of forgery or fraudulence were not presented.

The letter continues stating:
As a professional reminder, failing to practice pharmacy using reasonable knowledge, skill, competence, and safety for the public may result in disciplinary actions under Alaska statute and regulation. These laws are: AS [Alaska Statutes] 08.80.261 DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS.

It then continues, quoting and citing other statutes and administrative codes under which a pharmacist could be charged for refusing to fill an opioid prescription for a patient.

Chilling? Mixed Signals? You be the Judge!

The problem I have is where is the state board of pharmacy (in any state, not just Alaska), when the DEA comes in to the pharmacy with its search warrants and arrest warrants? Where is the state board of pharmacy when the raid by local police/sheriff/multi-jurisdictional task force comes into the pharmacy? Where is the state board of pharmacy when the U.S. Attorney’s Office indicts and prosecutes the pharmacist? Where is the state board of pharmacy when the DEA issues its Order to Show Cause (OTSC) why the pharmacy’s or pharmacist’s DEA registration should not be revoked.

The state board of pharmacy is usually the one providing the expert witnesses to testify against the pharmacist or pharmacy, that’s where. The state board of pharmacy is standing by ready to take disciplinary action against the pharmacist or pharmacy, after the other government agencies get finished.

If pharmacists and pharmacies are refusing to fill prescriptions for opioids, which is something that I advise my clients to do, if they can afford to do so, then that is a smart move, until state agencies, including the state boards of pharmacy, take action to help them out of this predicament. The pharmacists are caught on the horns of a dilemma: face federal and state criminal prosecutions and actions by the DEA for filling opioid prescriptions; or face possible administrative actions by the state board of pharmacy for not filling opioid prescriptions. My advice is to choose the latter as it is much easier to defend a state administrative action, especially if you are not trying to do so from a federal prison somewhere.

The cost of defending a DEA action to revoke a DEA registration is prohibitive if done correctly, even if the pharmacist is completely innocent of any wrongdoing. The goal of these proceedings, despite the innocence of the pharmacist or pharmacy, is to put them out of business, and it almost always succeeds! Click here to read one of my prior blogs about DEA investigations of health care professionals.

To read my additional opinions on the types of actions that can be taken by states and state agencies to address the issues which the Alaska Board letter attempts to address, please see Part 2 of this blog. Click here to read Part 3 of this blog series and stay tuned for Parts 4 and 5!

To learn more on administrative and informal hearings before the Florida Board of Pharmacy, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The Firm also represents both plaintiffs (whistle blowers or relators) and defendants in False Claims Act (whistle blower or qui tam) cases. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

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

KeyWords: legal representation for pharmacists, legal representation for pharmacies, pharmacy defense attorney, pharmacist defense lawyer, board representation for pharmacists, board representation for pharmacies, board representation for physicians, Board of Pharmacy investigation representation, legal representation for board investigations, administrative hearing defense attorney, representation for administrative hearings, administrative complaint representation, Board of Medicine representation, Board of Medicine attorney, Board of Medicine defense attorney, representation for Board of Medicine investigations, representation for Board of Medicine complaints, DEA hearing defense attorney, DEA investigation attorney, DEA hearing representation, DEA investigation representation, representation for DEA investigations against physicians, representation for pill mill allegations, representation for allegations of over prescribing, representation for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

HB 19 -Prescription Drug Importation Programs.

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

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

Two Programs, One Goal – Lowering Prescription Drug Prices.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

Sources:

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

News Service of Florida. “DeSantis Drug Importation Plan Wins House Support.” Sunshine State News. (March 13, 2019). Web.

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

KeyWords: Legal representation for pharmacies, representation of health care professionals, health law defense attorney, doctor attorney, nurse attorney, Legal Defense for Pharmacists, pharmacy defense attorney, representation for pharmacists, representation for pharmacies, Department of Health defense attorney, DOH investigation representation, quality assurance representation, DEA investigation, DEA attorney, DEA representation, prescription E-FORSCE representation, DEA defense lawyer, representation for overprescribing, Medicare investigation lawyer, representation for Medicaid investigation, representation for health care professionals, license defense lawyer, licensure representation, board representation attorney, representation for board investigations, whistleblower representation, qui tam representation, whistleblower attorney, whistleblower defense attorney, qui tam attorney, qui tam defense lawyer, representation for license defense, licensure defense attorney, protecting your professional license, Florida opioid crisis, Florida’s ongoing lawsuit for opioid crisis The Health Law Firm, Florida health law attorney, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Alaska Board of Pharmacy Sends Letter to its Pharmacists Sending Mixed Signals Over Filling Opioid Prescriptions (Part 1 of a 2 part series)

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

The “Opioid Crisis” in the U.S.

We all know that there is an “opioid crisis” in the U.S. It is probably prevalent in every state. In Florida we have been suffering under it for the past ten to fifteen years. So it is nothing new to Florida. Government regulators including, but not limited to the Florida Department of Health (DOH), Florida Attorney General (AG), different State’s Attorneys’ (prosecutors) offices, multi-jurisdictional task forces, local law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), along with federal prosecutors, have been involved in ongoing efforts in Florida for the past fifteen years or so, to shut down “pill mills” and attempt to eliminate the “opioid crisis.” Florida was, unfortunately, leading this trend.

The “Opioid Crisis;” Nothing New in Florida.

During this same period of time, my firm and I have been involved in defending physicians and pharmacists in criminal, civil, and administrative actions seeking to prosecute them, revoke their licenses, revoke their DEA registrations, terminate them from Medicaid participation, levy fines on them and other punitive actions. Florida was also, unfortunately, leading this trend.

So our opinions and comments in this blog, Part 1, and its Part 2, are informed by long years of experience with something that is old news in Florida, but may be new news in other states.

Alaska Sends out its Warning to Pharmacists to Keep Filling Prescriptions for Opioids.

On January 23, 2019, the Chairman of the Alaska Board of Pharmacy sent out an open letter to Alaska pharmacists, discussing the negative effect on patient health that has arisen in response to the fact that many pharmacists have stopped filling prescriptions for opioids. From its tone, it warns pharmacists to keep filling such prescriptions under threat of possible disciplinary action against their licenses, at least that is my interpretation of it. Here is a copy you can read for yourself, click here.

The two-page letter begins by stating:

The [Alaska] Board of Pharmacy has had an influx of communication concerning patients not able to get controlled substance prescriptions filled for various reasons, even when signs of forgery or fraudulence were not presented.

The letter continues stating:

As a professional reminder, failing to practice pharmacy using reasonable knowledge, skill, competence, and safety for the public may result in disciplinary actions under Alaska statute and regulation. These laws are: AS [Alaska Statutes] 08.80.261 DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS.

It then continues, quoting and citing other statutes and administrative codes under which a pharmacist could be charged for refusing to fill an opioid prescription for a patient.

Chilling? Mixed Signals? You be the Judge!

The problem I have is where is the state board of pharmacy (in any state, not just Alaska), when the DEA comes in to the pharmacy with its search warrants and arrest warrants? Where is the state board of pharmacy when the raid by local police/sheriff/multi-jurisdictional task force comes into the pharmacy? Where is the state board of pharmacy when the U.S. Attorney’s Office indicts and prosecutes the pharmacist? Where is the state board of pharmacy when the DEA issues its Order to Show Cause (OTSC) why the pharmacy’s or pharmacist’s DEA registration should not be revoked.

The state board of pharmacy is usually the one providing the expert witnesses to testify against the pharmacist or pharmacy, that’s where. The state board of pharmacy is standing by ready to take disciplinary action against the pharmacist or pharmacy, after the other government agencies get finished.

If pharmacists and pharmacies are refusing to fill prescriptions for opioids, which is something that I advise my clients to do, if they can afford to do so, then that is a smart move, until state agencies, including the state boards of pharmacy, take action to help them out of this predicament. The pharmacists are caught on the horns of a dilemma: face federal and state criminal prosecutions and actions by the DEA for filling opioid prescriptions; or face possible administrative actions by the state board of pharmacy for not filling opioid prescriptions. My advice is to choose the latter as it is much easier to defend a state administrative action, especially if you are not trying to do so from a federal prison somewhere.

The cost of defending a DEA action to revoke a DEA registration is prohibitive if done correctly, even if the pharmacist is completely innocent of any wrongdoing. The goal of these proceedings, despite the innocence of the pharmacist or pharmacy, is to put them out of business, and it almost always succeeds! Click here to read one of my prior blogs about DEA investigations of health care professionals.

To read my additional opinions on the types of actions that can be taken by states and state agencies to address the issues which the Alaska Board letter attempts to address, please see Part 2 of this blog. To read more on pill mill cases in the state of Florida, click here.

To learn more on administrative and informal hearings before the Florida Board of Pharmacy, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The Firm also represents both plaintiffs (whistle blowers or relators) and defendants in False Claims Act (whistle blower or qui tam) cases. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

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

KeyWords: legal representation for pharmacists, legal representation for pharmacies, pharmacy defense attorney, pharmacist defense lawyer, board representation for pharmacists, board representation for pharmacies, board representation for physicians, Board of Pharmacy investigation representation, legal representation for board investigations, administrative hearing defense attorney, representation for administrative hearings, administrative complaint representation, Board of Medicine representation, Board of Medicine attorney, Board of Medicine defense attorney, representation for Board of Medicine investigations, representation for Board of Medicine complaints, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hearing defense attorney, DEA investigation attorney, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hearing legal representation, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation legal defense attorney representation, representation for DEA investigations against pharmacists and physicians, legal representation for pill mill allegations, legal representation for allegations of over prescribing, lawyer providing representation for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, defense for Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Order to Show Cause (OTSC), responding to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Order to Show Cause (OTSC), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Order to Show Cause (OTSC) attorney and legal defense

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2019-02-06T01:19:24+00:00February 6th, 2019|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Florida Pharmacy Hit With FCA Suit for Illegal Kickback Scheme Targeting Tricare

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

On October 19, 2018, the federal government filed suit against a Florida pharmacy for allegations of illegal kickback schemes involving industry marketers. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida alleges that Oldsmar Pharmacy was involved in illegal schemes that resulted in the federal Tricare program paying more than $21 million in reimbursements for prescriptions and False Claims Act (FCA) violations.

Suit Filed on Behalf of The Defense Health Agency (DHA).

The federal government filed the suit on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense, including its Defense Health Agency (DHA). The DHA administers the Tricare program, which provides health insurance for active duty military personnel, military retirees and their dependents.

The government is seeking treble damages, civil penalties and restitution, based on its claims that the pharmacy submitted claims to Tricare for reimbursement for prescriptions of costly compound medications. The government claims that they knew were fraudulent under the FCA because of the kickbacks paid to marketers.

On October 18, 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a press release announcing the involvement of three military members in the scheme as sales representatives for Centurion Compounding, Inc. All three were indicted for paying kickbacks to Tricare beneficiaries to obtain prescriptions for compounded medications. You can learn more about this in the section below.21

Click here to read the DOJ’s press release.

Former Whistleblower Suit.

The lawsuit against Oldsmar Pharmacy and company President, Larry Smith, stems from a whistleblower suit filed in 2015 by Jennifer Silva and Jessica Robertson, former employees, according to the complaint.

The schemes allegedly occurred between September 2014 and February 2015 by Smith and Oldsmar and different pharmacy services administration organizations.

Tricare Reimbursements and Kickback Schemes.

According to the complaint, Centurion Compounding Inc., hired sales representatives as independent contractors who marketed costly compound medications to Tricare beneficiaries. Patients recruited by the sales reps were directed to send their prescriptions to Centurion, which then directed them to Oldsmar pharmacy.

From November 2014 to February 2015, Tricare paid about $18 million for approximately 4,000 claims for compound prescriptions as part of the kickback scheme, according to the federal government. Oldsmar paid Centurion more than $6.1 million in kickbacks, some of which was distributed to the individual sales representatives involved.

Additionally, prosecutors claim that pharmacy President, Larry Smith, entered into a second kickback scheme with several marketing companies. These companies published online advertisements offering free consultations for pain creams via telemedicine, without ever seeing a physician in person. In return, Oldsmar Pharmacy paid a 41 percent kickback to the marketers, the complaint alleges.

Click here to read the complaint in full.

The suit brings forward false or fraudulent claims; recovery of payments made by mistake by Tricare; and unjust enrichment. To learn more, click here to read one of my prior blogs on a similar case.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, qui tam and whistleblower cases, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The Firm also represents both plaintiffs (whistle blowers or relators) and defendants in False Claims Act (whistle blower or qui tam) cases. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

Sources:

Hale. Nathan. “Fla. Pharmacy Hit With False Claims Suit Over Kickbacks.” Law360. (October 19, 2018). Web.

Stringini, Mary. “St. Pete doctor pleads guilty to receiving kickbacks, BMW in $5.3 million pharmacy conspiracy.” ABC Action News. (March 8, 2018). Web.

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

KeyWords: Pharmacy legal representation, False Claims Act defense attorney, FCA legal counsel, Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) defense attorney, legal representation for allegations of violating Anti-Kickback Statute, TRICARE false claims legal defense attorney, TRICARE physician representation, legal representation violating False Claims Act, pharmaceutical fraud lawyer, compounding pharmacy attorney, fraudulent practices of pharmaceutical companies, whistle blower lawyer, FCA violations representation, pharmacy representation, pharmacy defense attorney, pharmacist representation, pharmacist defense lawyer, TRICARE fraud attorney, The Health Law Firm, fraud investigations representation, health care fraud defense lawyer, compounding pharmacy lawyer, prescription reimbursement leagl representation, legal defense of military physicians, legal defense of TRICARE providers, attorney reviews of The Health Law Firm, Veterans Administration (VA) physician defense attorney, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Virginia Doc Lands 40 Years in Prison For Running Multi-state Pill Mill

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On October 2, 2019, a Virginia doctor received a 40-year prison sentence for illegally prescribing more than half a million opioid pills over 19 months. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia handed down the sentence to Joel Smithers, who was reported to have operated a “pill mill” out of Virginia, according to authorities. In addition to prison time, he was given an $86,000 fine and will serve three years of supervised release upon the completion of his prison time, according to court documents.

The sentence is lighter than it could have been. He was facing up to life in prison and a fine of more than $200 million, according to officials at the U.S. Justice Department. Click here to view the court’s sentencing document in full.

Alleged Interstate Drug Distribution Network.

In May 2019, Smithers was convicted by a jury on more than 859 federal drug charges, including one count of possessing with the intent to distribute controlled substances and one count of maintaining a place for the purpose of unlawfully distributing controlled substances. Additionally, he was also convicted on hundreds of counts of unlawfully distributing a controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose or beyond the bounds of medical practice.

When he opened his Virginia practice in 2015, Justice Department officials said he prescribed controlled substances to “every patient in his practice, resulting in over 500,000 Schedule II controlled substances being distributed.” Authorities say that he allegedly ran an operation that was less a medical practice and more an interstate drug distribution network.

Smithers was able to rake in over $700,000 in cash and credit card payments before the search warrant was executed at his office on March 7, 2017. Click here to read the press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Virginia.

To learn about a similar case involving two Florida doctors, click here.

The Problems I See.

I tell you that I take issue with many of the cases of this sort. I do not know enough about the actual facts of this physician’s case, but I can comment generally based on other similar cases I have had in the past. The government, both state and federal, has come down like a hammer on individual physicians and pharmacists in its over-zealous campaign to crack down on opioids. Many physicians and pharmacists, just trying to do a good job and legitimately treat their patients, are being caught up and persecuted. Chronic pain patients, many of whom are disabled veterans or people injured on the job, are unable to find physicians to treat them anymore or, if they can, any pharmacists willing to fill their prescriptions.

All sorts of under-handed techniques are used to try to make a case against conscientious health professionals who are merely trying to do their jobs. These do include the tactic seen in the case we are reporting on, which I call “bean counting.” The government comes in and, instead of proving how many allegedly illegal prescriptions were written or how many patients the physician gave the prescriptions to, breaks these out into the number of pills. This greatly exaggerates the case and these large numbers alone make it look like the doctor (or pharmacist) is doing something wrong or extremely way out of the norm.

For example, if a patient was receiving a low dose of a pain killer, say 10 mg Oxycodone every 4 to 6 hours, prescribed for four times a day, the ordinary monthly prescription for this medication alone (and such patients rarely receive one type of medication alone) this equates to 120 pills per month. If 10 mg pills are not available and/or the prescription is filled with 5 mg pills, instead, this is 240 pills a month. A years’ worth is 1,440 pills or 2,880 pills for just one patient. If the physician has 50 similar patients, this is 72,000 pills or 144,000 pills a year that the physician is writing and a pharmacy or pharmacies are filling.

This does not seem extreme or unusual to me, at all, and these amounts are on the low side. Yet just as government agencies love to inflate the “street value” or contraband drugs they seize, they love to break down the number of opioids a physician writes so it seems to a layperson to be extraordinarily large. Furthermore, a pain management physician or any other kind of physician cannot survive with just 50 patients a month. It is far more likely for a physician to have a thousand (1,000) or more patients a month. I call this type of numerical exaggeration “bean counting.” But it has put a number of physicians and pharmacists in jail.

Judges should not allow such exaggerated numbers to be introduced into evidence in the absence of further information that places them in context. It is unfairly prejudicial to the defendant to do so.

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 cases regarding allegations of over-prescribing and illegal prescribing. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse actions by the DEA contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Booker, Brakkton. “Doctor Gets 40 Years For Illegally Prescribing More Than Half A Million Opioid Doses.” NPR. (October 2, 2019). Web.

“Virginia doctor could get life in prison today for prescribing 500,000 opioid pills.” RTV6. (October 2, 2019). Web.

Almasy, Steve. “Virginia doctor who illegally prescribed 500,000 opioid pills sentenced to 40 years in prison.” CNN. (October 2, 2019). Web.

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

KeyWords: legal representation for pain management physicians and pharmacists, legal representation for pharmacies, pharmacy defense attorney, pain management physician defense attorney, pharmacist defense lawyer, pain management physician defense lawyer, representation for False Claims Act (FCA) investigation, False Claims Act representation, FCA defense lawyer, board representation for pharmacists, board representation for pharmacies, board representation for physicians, Board of Pharmacy investigation representation, legal representation for board investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) defense attorney, board of medicine attorney, board of pharmacy attorney, Department of Health investigations, pain clinics, over prescribing painkillers, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation attorney, The Health Law Firm, administrative hearing defense attorney, DEA order to show cause (OSC) defense lawyer, legal representation for administrative hearings, administrative complaint representation, Board of Medicine representation, Board of Medicine attorney, Board of Medicine defense attorney, representation for Board of Medicine investigations, representation for Board of Medicine complaints, DEA hearing defense attorney, DEA investigation attorney, DEA hearing representation, DEA investigation representation, representation for DEA investigations against physicians, representation for pill mill allegations, representation for allegations of overprescribing, representation for overbilling, DOJ defense lawyer, representation for DOJ investigations, representation for health care professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, DEA order to show cause (OSC) defense attorney

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2019-12-05T20:08:18+00:00January 16th, 2019|Categories: Mental Health Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments
Load More Posts