Unlawful Prescribing or Dispensing
The defense of licensed healthcare professional for unlawful prescribing or dispensing of controlled substances is an extremely complex area of law. Numerous regulations, statutes and agencies are involved in the process, and the criminal case is only half the battle.
The attorneys at Norman Spencer Law Group have the knowledge and experience required to handle such cases, and our clients have included physicians, chiropractors and other licensed healthcare professional charged with or investigated for unlawful prescribing or dispensing.
In addition to criminal charges, healthcare practitioners accused of unlawful prescribing or dispensing frequently face administrative and civil penalties and sanctions. Depending on the state in which you practice, statutes may also exclude you from practicing medicine or from billing Medicaid and Medicare if convicted of certain offenses.
When selecting a lawyer to protect your freedom and your career, it’s imperative to choose an established law firm with the ability to handle the criminal, civil and administrative aspects of the case to achieve the most favorable outcome. Norman Spencer Law Group is at your service.
Complex Regulations for a Complex Profession
Prescription drug abuse is reportedly the fastest-growing drug problem in the country. This puts doctors under increased pressure to adjust their use of prescription narcotics while upholding the Hippocratic Oath and standard of care. Although many doctors and lawyers understand the regulations associated with prescribing prescription narcotics, few may comprehend what constitutes a criminal departure from the standard of care.
Federal and state guidelines on the issue are not always aligned, creating even greater complexities. Penalties for crossing this ambiguous line can be significant. They can include revocation of DEA and state licenses, hefty fines, and possible jail time.
Since the practice of medicine is a difficult and complex profession, it may be no surprise the regulations are also complex and difficult to understand. Unless an attorney has specialized knowledge of case law and state statutes, they may be caught off-guard when advising healthcare professionals on the implications of their prescription practices.
Increase in Prescription Fraud and Abuse Scrutiny
State and federal programs designed to combat prescription drug fraud and abuse are seeing an increase in funding, as well as an increase in agencies involved. All this equates to an increased scrutiny of the prescription and dispensing of prescription narcotics.
The agencies and investigative teams have established advanced methods for tracking and identifying healthcare professionals that deviate from statistical norms. Agencies and insurance companies likewise conduct a number of undercover operations aimed at identifying and prosecuting licensed healthcare professionals that prescribe outside the statistical norm, outside of their scope of practice, or for other than medical purposes.
Healthcare practitioners accused of prescribing for purposes that are not professionally recognized can face federal and state criminal charges, along with administrative sanctions.
Exemptions from Criminal Prosecution
Depending on the state, a licensed healthcare professional may be exempt from criminal prosecution related to controlled substances in certain instances. Exemptions sometimes occur as long as the healthcare professional:
- Is acting within the scope of their practice
- Prescribes solely for legitimate and professionally recognized scientific or therapeutic purposes
Physicians, pharmacists, veterinarians and other prescribers and dispensers can face criminal penalties as well as licensing sanctions for violating the Public Health Code that governs the exemptions. Retaining a qualified attorney is crucial if a healthcare practitioner is found to be in violation.
Controlled Substance Act (CSA)
The Controlled Substance Act (CSA) was enacted in 1970 for the purpose of combatting drug abuse as well as controlling both legitimate and illegitimate dispensing of prescription narcotics. Licensed medical professionals must be registered with the DEA to be authorized to prescribe controlled substances included in Schedules II to V. They must also be acting within their scope of practice and prescribing the controlled substance for a legitimate medical purpose.
Under the CSA, the DEA administrator has the authority to revoke or suspend a doctor’s prescription privileges if the physician is found to have engaged in acts that would render their DEA registration “inconsistent with the public interest.” Because this standard is much lower than the standard found in criminal cases, it’s possible for a healthcare professional to lose DEA privileges even if they were acquitted in criminal court.
When determining if a healthcare practitioner’s DEA registration is in the public interest, certain considerations are brought into account. These include:
- The recommendation of the respective professional disciplinary authority or state licensing board
- The practitioner’s experience dispensing or conducting research with controlled substances
- The practitioner’s conviction history under state or federal laws relating to the dispensing, distribution or manufacture of controlled substances
- The practitioner’s compliance with applicable local, state and federal controlled substances laws
- Any other conduct that is perceived to threaten public health and safety
In addition to revocation of DEA registration, the CSA provides criminal prosecution for illicit distribution, possession or manufacture of controlled substances.
While we have covered a lot of ground with regard to unlawful prescribing or dispensing of controlled substances, we have in realty barely scratched the surface of this complex legal area. Licensed healthcare professionals accused of unlawful prescribing or dispensing controlled substances would be wise to contact at attorney from Norman Spencer Law Group as quickly as possible. Call our office to schedule a consultation today.