Tag Archives: Florida prescription drug crackdown

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

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

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

Click here to read the entire Sun Sentinel article.

Doctor Prescribed Pain Pills to Undercover Detectives.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legal Tips for Physicians to Manage Pain Patients.

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

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

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

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, pain management doctors, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

Comments?

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

New Details Released on Drug Enforcement Administration’s Investigation of 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

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) investigation into a Longwood, Florida, pain management clinic continues. More details are being revealed about the case. DEA agents along with local police and sheriffs’ deputies raided the pain management clinic on June 14, 2013. Agents believe the evidence they have gathered suggests the clinic was operating as a “pill mill,” according to the Orlando Sentinel. Officials allegedly seized evidence at the clinic associated with at least ten (10) doctors and other clinic employees. No one has been arrested yet, but documents filed in federal court in Orlando suggest charges could be coming.

I previously blogged about this raid. Click here to read that blog.

Details of the Investigation.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the DEA began surveying the alleged pill mill in January 2011, while investigating a doctor shopper. From July 2011 through May 2013, agents monitored the clinic. During the investigation, agents observed long lines outside the clinic, out-of-state license plates and groups of “patients” arriving at the clinic together. All of this behavior, according to authorities, is associated with pain clinics.

More concrete evidence against the pain management clinic, according to police officials, includes:

-  Patients stating that employees discussed selling pain pills and fake MRIs;

-  DEA agents observing drug deals made by patients coming from the clinic, in the vicinity of the clinic;

-  Used needles were found in nearby parking lots; and

-  Two of the clinic’s patients allegedly died from overdoses during the investigation.

Pain Management Clinic Physicians Made Millions.

It’s reported that the pain management clinic hired ten (10) doctors to write illegal prescriptions and employed others to falsify documents. For their willingness to participate in the illegal activity, the physicians allegedly made millions of dollars.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the bank accounts of the clinic managers were analyzed as part of the investigation. From 2011 to 2013, more than $5.5 million in cash was deposited into the bank accounts of the clinic managers and physicians.

To read the entire article from the Orlando Sentinel, click here.

Keep in mind, at this point, these are just allegations made against the clinic and its employees and nothing has been proven by the state or federal government.

Be Mindful of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Database.

DEA agents used Florida’s prescription drug monitoring database to find out what types of pills and how many pills physicians at the Longwood pain clinic were prescribing. The prescription database was not intended to be used for criminal prosecution or law enforcement purposes. Yet it is routinely being used to prosecute physicians, pharmacists and pharmacies among others.

If You are a Health Care Professional Involved with Pain Management, Keep These Tips Handy.

The 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. I have represented a number of physicians who have been accused of “overprescribing.”  Some of these were criminal investigations by local law enforcement authorities, such as a county sheriff’s office. Some were investigations by the DEA. Some were investigations by the state licensing agency, such as the Florida Department of Health (DOH).

It is important physicians know how to protect themselves and their licenses from drug-seeking patients.  Click here to read tips I give to physicians I advise on this issue.

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:

Pavuk, Amy. “Rx for Danger: Pain Clinic Owners Made Millions, Hired 10 Doctors to Write Illegal Scripts, Feds Say.” Orlando Sentinel. (June 24, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/health/os-professional-pain-care-longwood-20130624,0,1172890.story

Indest, George. “Drug Enforcement Administration Agents Raid Central Florida Pain Management Clinic.” The Health Law Fir. (June 17, 2013). From: http://thehealthlawfirmblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/drug-enforcement-administration-agents-raid-central-florida-pain-management-clinic/

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Osceola County Commissioners Vote to Regulate Pain Management Clinics

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

On October 8, 2012, the Osceola County, Florida, Commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance that will regulate pain management clinics, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The ordinance will take effect on October 31, 2012, and will be in effect for 10 years.

Click here to see the ordinance passed at the Osceola County Commissioner’s meeting.

This is part of the continuing efforts by law enforcement to cut down on prescription drug abuse that plagues the state.

Ordinance Details.

The ordinance spells out what constitutes a pain management clinic, prohibits cash-only payments and requires pain management clinics to provide the names of employees to the county.

The ordinance also requires that clinics participate in the Department of Health’s (DOH) Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. That means pain management doctors will have to track and provide monthly reports on how many prescriptions are issued for controlled substances, and provide certain patient data, such as age ranges, race and gender.

Anyone caught violating these rules will be punished with the loss of their business tax receipt.

Any hospital or physician engaged in short-term treatment of pain (90 days or less) is exempt from the ordinance.

Seminole County Might Be Next.

Seminole County, Florida, Commissioners were set to vote on a similar ordinance at their meeting on October 9, 2012, but heard arguments from doctors. The ordinance will now be considered next month, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

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

Don’t Risk Your License. Read These Tips for Pain Management Doctors to Stay Inside the Law.

On top of following the new ordinance, Osceola County doctors and any doctor working in pain management, should read this article on tips to protect themselves from drug-seeking 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?

As a healthcare professional, what do you think of this ordinance? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Source:

Breen, David. “Osceola Ordinance Targets Pill Mills.” Orlando Sentinel. (October 9, 2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-osceola-pain-clinic-ordinance-20121009,0,2467210.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.

Orlando Pharmacist in Hot Water After Filling Fraudulent Prescriptions

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

Another pharmacist was led away in
handcuffs during a September 25, 2012, raid on an Orlando-area pharmacy, according to a number of sources. The pharmacist is accused of filling prescriptions for oxycodone, even though he allegedly knew the prescriptions were not legitimate.

Click here to see video of the arrest from WFTV in Orlando.

 Ongoing Investigation Led to Pharmacy Raid.

In December 2011, narcotics agents searched the same pharmacy and found 22 prescriptions that were suspected to be fraudulent, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Agents believed the prescriptions were fakes because they apparently matched phony prescriptions found at other local pharmacies. The prescriptions had the same patient names, and the telephone number listed on the prescription belonged to a suspected drug abuser, not a physician.

One customer who received pills from the pharmacist told the Orlando Sentinel that because she was using fake prescriptions, the pharmacist would mark up the price of the pills.

Pharmacists Beware of Phony Prescription Rings Around the State.

We have previously published several blogs about groups of criminals who have operated phony prescription rings in Central Florida. In a number of cases they have obtained professional counterfeit-proof paper and had prescription forms printed that are indistinguishable from the real thing.

Click here to see blog one. Click here to see smurf blog.

Given that there are mandatory minimum prison sentences for such activities, young people (those who are usually involved) should avoid these people like the plague. It is just not worth the risk for a few hundred dollars or a few pills. You screw up your life forever, and you spend years in prison.

How to Handle Legal Issues.

The pharmacist in this casewas arrested on 22 counts of trafficking in oxycodone, 22 counts of conspiracy to traffic in oxycodone, and one count of trafficking in hydrocodone. On top of those charges, the Department of Health (DOH) ordered an emergency suspension order on the pharmacist’s license.

To read the article from the Orlando Sentinel, click here.

To see our blog on possible remedies for an emergency suspension order, click here.

Spike in Pharmacy Raids and Shutdowns in the Sunshine State.

If you’ve been watching the news at all lately, you can tell there have been an increased number of raids on pharmacies, arrests of pharmacists and emergency suspension orders issued from the Department of Health (DOH).

Just in the past month the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) served a Walgreens distribution center in Florida with an immediate suspension order (click here to read more on this story), and pulled the controlled substance licenses from two Central Florida CVS Pharmacies (to learn more, click here).

In my personal opinion, if the large retail giants can’t survive, the small independent pharmacies stand little chance.

Do you agree? What do you think of the war on prescription drugs in Florida? Leave your comments on this story below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

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

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

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “Agents Raid Orlando-Area Pharmacy, Arrest Pharmacist.” Orlando Sentinel. (September 25, 2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-pharmacist-arrested-orlando-20120925,0,6879000.story

WFTV. “Pharmacist Arrested on Charges of Trafficking Oxycodone.” WFTV.com. (September 25, 2012). From: ttp://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/pharmacist-arrested-charges-trafficking-oxycodone/nSLgg/

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.

More Than 20 Arrest Warrants Issued by Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Connection to Pill Mill Investigation

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

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office issued 25 arrest warrants in connection to an ongoing pill mill investigation involving a medical clinic in Winter Haven, Florida. On September 19, 2012, the sheriff’s office announced that ten suspects in the case have been arrested, and 15 suspects with arrest warrants remain at large.

Click here to see the press release from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities Used the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to find Suspects.

Last year the state launched the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which requires doctors and pharmacists who dispense controlled substances to report the information to a statewide database.

According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the database was used to round up those associated with the Winter Haven medical clinic.

In an article in the News Chief, deputies said 13 of the suspects were allegedly acting as “smurfs” (people hired by a drug ring to take fake prescriptions to be filled, then turning the pills over to the ring). Another 12 people were accused of “doctor shopping,” which is the practice of going to multiple doctors to get many prescriptions for narcotics.

To read the entire article from the News Chief, click here.

This case was investigated by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLF), the Florida Department of Health (DOH) and the Attorney General’s (AG) Office.

“These people are giving the smurfs a bad name,” Papa Smurf stated. “We should be happy that law enforcement is doing a good job rounding up the read ‘bad guys,’”added Brainy Smurf.
Legal Tips for Physicians to Manage Pain Patients.

Doctors, pharmacists and all healthcare professionals who are involved in schemes relating to overprescribing or trafficking in narcotics may be targeted by many different agencies.

We have represented physicians who have been the subjects of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations. The DEA will often use undercover agents and informants to pose as patients, wired for audio recording. The DEA will often work with local law enforcement authorities and the Department of Health (DOH).

Other investigations and arrests may be initiated by a statewide prosecutor’s office, which is under the Attorney General (AG). Still others have been initiated by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) where Medicaid funds are used.

Click here to see an article on our website with tips for to help manage pain patients.

Give us your thoughts on this story below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Providers in DOH Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses, and other health care 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.
Sources:

Parody, Clifford. “25 Warrants Issued in Ongoing Pill Mill Case.” News Chief. (September 20, 2012). From: http://www.newschief.com/article/20120920/NEWS/209205012

Pavuk, Amy. “25 Arrest Warrants Issued in Pill-Mill Probe.” Orlando Sentinel. (September 19, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-09-19/news/os-polk-pill-mill-arrests-20120919_1_pill-mill-probe-arrest-warrants-fraudulent-prescriptions

Eleazer, Carrie. “25 Arrest Warrants Issued in Connection to On-Going Pill Mill Investigation.” Polk County Sheriff’s Office. (September 19, 2012). From: http://www.polksheriff.org/NewsRoom/News%20Releases/Pages/09-19-2012.aspx
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

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