Tag Archives: pharmacists

Two Central Florida Physicians Connected to Statewide Pill-Mill Network

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

An Orlando and Jacksonville physician have been linked to a statewide pill-mill operation that brought in millions of dollars to pain clinic owners and doctors, according to the Orlando Sentinel. On June 27, 2012 seven doctors and seven pain clinic owners were arrested in the raid that was dubbed “Operation Pill Street Blues.” The two-year, multiagency investigation into the pill-mill operation spanned from Miami to Pensacola. The investigation included the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Florida law enforcement.

To view the DEA’s press release concerning the investigation, click here.

South Florida Firefighter Alleged Leader of Pill Mill.

Investigators named a 32-year-old Pompano Beach firefighter as the pill-mill’s ring leader. He allegedly used his image as a city firefighter and paramedic to develop a clean reputation with the local law enforcement.

He allegedly told his co-conspirators how to turn in other rogue doctors, pain clinics, and patients who abused drugs to authorities, so that their business would appear legitimate.

Millions of Oxycodone Pills were Prescribed in One Year.

Doctors recruited by the pill-mill network would allegedly write prescriptions to patients who did not have a medical need for the drugs or would prescribe excessive amounts of pills.

The seven doctors in the organization allegedly dispensed more than two million oxycodone tablets in one year. The Orlando and Jacksonville doctors allegedly prescribed more than 930,000 oxycodone pills between the two of them in a nine-month period.

Both Local Doctors Examined Undercover Detectives Posing as Patients During the Investigation.

Both doctors were visited by undercover detectives posing as patients. The Jacksonville doctor examined a detective who complained of minor back pain. She allegedly issued prescriptions for oxycodone and other drugs, even though the detective had no observable medical issues.

The affidavit details other undercover doctor visits, including those with the Orlando doctor at a pain management clinic in Fort Meyers. The initial exam between the doctor and the undercover detective allegedly lasted less than three minutes, before he gave the detective a prescription for oxycodone and other drugs.

Charges Vary from Racketeering to Manslaughter.

Those arrested for alleged involvement in the pill-mill scheme face charges ranging from racketeering, to trafficking of a controlled substance, to manslaughter.

On June 26, 2012, the day before authorities announced the charges, the Department of Health suspended the doctors’ licenses.

Pain management doctors click here to see if you’re in compliance with the recent changes to Florida’s pain management laws.

Patients with Severe Pain Speaking Out.

A former patient of a Vero Beach doctor arrested in the sting is one of hundreds who were prescribed strong narcotic pain medications at the alleged pill mills. Now she’s having a hard time finding the medications she needs to treat her conditions, including: a herniated disk, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. All of her conditions are listed in medical records and cause her severe pain. She is trying to find another doctor that is willing to prescribe her the medications she needs to function.

This situation is familiar to many patients in Florida with true medical need for prescription pain medications. These patients are finding it increasingly difficult to even locate a physician to treat them. Medical ethicists have commented on this problem, saying it is an issue that will become increasingly problematic for the foreseeable future.

To read more on operation “Pill Street Blue,” click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents 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.

Sources Include:

Pavuk, Amy. “Authorities Link Orlando doctor, Daytona Clinic to Pill-Mill Network.” Orlando Sentinel. (July 14, 2012). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-07-14/news/os-fernando-valle-pill-mill-network-20120714_1_pain-clinics-pill-mill-network-clinic-owners

Gordon, Lynn. “Former Patient of Vero Beach Doctor Arrested in Pill Mill Bust Talks.”WPEC-TV. (July 17, 2012). From: http://www.cbs12.com/news/top-stories/stories/vid_1092.shtml

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.

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Recent Pill Mill Bust in Florida Dubbed “Operation Pill Street Blues”

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

A statewide pill mill bust that spanned several Florida cities was announced by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Florida law enforcement on June 27, 2012. Seven doctors and seven pain clinic owners were arrested. The raid has been dubbed “Operation Pill Street Blues” by the DEA.

To view the DEA’s press release concerning the raid, click here.

Manslaughter and Trafficking Among Charges Against the Doctors and Pain Clinic Owners.

The doctors and pain clinic owners are facing a long list of charges. Some of the alleged offenses include: racketeering; conspiracy to commit racketeering; manslaughter; trafficking in a controlled substance; conspiracy to traffic in a controlled substance; delivery of a controlled substance; illegally prescribing a controlled substance by a practitioner; illegally prescribing a controlled substance (oxycodone hydrochloride) by a practitioner-trafficking amount; workers compensation fraud; and money laundering.

Investigation Unveiled Ring of Pill Mills Spanning Across Florida.

The arrests follow a two year investigation led by the DEA in conjunction with the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office, Vero Beach Police Department, and the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution. The investigation began in Vero Beach in November 2010 after the DEA received complaints about a pain clinic that was allegedly writing a large amount of narcotics prescriptions.

During the investigation, DEA agents uncovered eight more pain clinics in Miami, Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Sarasota, Gainesville and Pensacola that were allegedly involved in the same operation. DEA agents also learned that some of the pain clinics were allegedly owned by two active Pompano Beach firemen.

Pain Clinic Owners Allegedly Studied Other DEA Pill Mill Busts to Avoid Detection.

According to the DEA, the pain clinic owners allegedly researched public records relating to past DEA investigations such as Operation Pill Nation and Operation Oxy Alley. One of the pain clinic owners also allegedly educated others at the clinics on how to successfully report their competition to law enforcement.

Wire Intercepts, Informants, and Undercover Agents Used in Pain Clinic Investigations.

The investigation into the pain clinics involved the use of judicial wire intercepts, informants, and under cover visits to the pain clinics. Undercover agents allegedly visited each of the seven doctors charged. The agents were allegedly prescribed approximately 2,732 oxycodone tablets.

Law Enforcement Raids on Physicians, Pharmacists, Nurses and Other Health Providers Will Continue.

According to the DEA, Operation Pill Street Blues is an ongoing investigation. Additional arrests of co-conspirators, including other doctors and health providers, are forthcoming, according to the DEA. If you are a physician, pharmacist, nurse, or other health provider, ensure you are taking measures to protect yourself and your practice.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents 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.

Sources Include:

Ro, Mia. “Federal Investigation Takes Down New Breed of Pill Mills in Florida.” Drug Enforcement Administration. (June 27, 2012). Press Release. From: http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/states/newsrel/2012/mia062712.html

Roberts, John. “DEA, Florida Police Arrest 14 in Pill Mill Bust.” Fox News. (June 6, 2012). From http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/06/27/statewide-pill-mill-bust-involves-florida-municipal-workers/#ixzz1zBvQuGgC

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.

Medical Marijuana Legalized in Connecticut: Will More Problems Develop for Doctors, Pharmacists?

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

The use of marijuana for medical reasons has been legalized in Connecticut. The state’s governor signed into law HB 5389 on May 31, 2012, which allows licensed physicians to certify a patient’s use of marijuana for medical purposes. Connecticut is the 17th state to legalize marijuana for medical use.

To view Connecticut HB 5389, click here.

Medical Marijuana Legislation in Connecticut Imposes Restrictions on Patients.

The new law outlines restrictions to prevent abuse of the substance. Patients and caregivers in Connecticut must register with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection. In addition, a doctor must certify there is a medical need for marijuana to be dispensed. HB 5389’s qualifying medical conditions are cancer, glaucoma, HIV, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries causing spasticity, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, and PTSD. The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection is authorized to add additional medical conditions.

Special License Needed for Pharmacists to Dispense Marijuana for Medical Use.

According to HB 5389, only a pharmacist with a special license can dispense medical marijuana. Pharmacists can obtain marijuana from licensed producers, who will pay an application fee of at least $25,000.

Majority of HB 5389 Provisions are Effective October 1, 2012.

The majority of the bill will go into effect on October 1, 2012, including a provision to allow patients to obtain a temporary registration to possess marijuana while the department implements the remainder of the act.

New Legislation Could Mean More Issues for Physicians, Pharmacists.

The passing of HB 5389 could mean more issues for physicians and pharmacists in Connecticut. Because the bill places many restrictions on the medical use of marijuana, the state may closely monitor the actions of physicians and pharmacists who prescribe and dispense medical marijuana.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents 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. Its 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 Include:

Clark, Mary Ellen. “Connecticut is the 17th State to Legalize Marijuana for Medical Use.” Reuters. (June 1, 2012). From http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/01/us-usa-marijuana-connecticut-idUSBRE85018X20120601

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.

Walgreens Reaches Settlement in False Claims Act Case

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

Walgreens has reached a $7.9 million settlement with the United States and participating states that resolves allegations that Walgreens violated the False Claims Act. The DOJ announced the settlement on April 20, 2012. To view the DOJ’s press release concerning the settlement with Walgreens, click here. To view the False Claims Act, click here.

Walgreens Allegedly Offered Illegal Inducements to Medicare and Medicaid Beneficiaries.

The settlement was reached after Walgreens was accused of offering illegal inducements to beneficiaries of government health programs (Medicare, Medicaid, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), and TRICARE ). Walgreens allegedly offered gift cards to government health program beneficiaries when they transferred a prescription from another pharmacy to Walgreens. The government maintains that such inducements are a violation of state and federal laws.

Walgreens Pays Back Individual State Medicaid Programs.

Since the initial settlement was announced by the DOJ, Walgreens has begun to pay back individual state Medicaid programs that were impacted by the alleged inducements. State and federal laws prohibit such inducements to buy services and goods provided under Medicaid. Walgreens is now paying the states for prescription claims it submitted for reimbursement to Medicaid that were a result of the alleged inducements. Some of the states involved include California, Indiana, Michigan, and Missouri.

Whistleblowers Initiated Government Investigation of Walgreens’ Gift Card Inducements.

The allegations were brought to the government by two whistleblowers. Two separate whistleblower lawsuits were filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act and state False Claims Act statutes. The whistleblowers will receive $1,277,172 from the United States for their role in filing the qui tam actions.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with False Act Claims Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents physicians, medical practices, pharmacists, pharmacies, and other health provider in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving government health programs (Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE). The Health Law Firm also represents health providers in False Claims Act cases.

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

Sources Include:

Cohen, Bryan. “Whistleblower Lawsuits Against Walgreens Settled.” LegalNewsline. (June 12, 2012). From: http://www.legalnewsline.com/news/236427-whistleblower-lawsuits-against-walgreens-settled

Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. “Walgreens Pharmacy Chain Pays $7.9 Million to Resolve False Prescription Billing Case.” Department of Justice. (April 20, 2012). Press Release. From: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/April/12-civ-505.html

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.

Doctors and Nurse Practitioner Arrested in Prescription Drug Abuse Raid

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

A crackdown on prescription drug abuse by New York law enforcement has resulted in the arrests of 98 people. Two doctors and a nurse practitioner were among those charged.

A series of raids were carried out by Brooklyn federal prosecutors, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), district attorney’s offices, and local law enforcement agencies. The raids began June 5, 2012 and resulted in the arrests.

To view the DEA’s press release concerning the raid, click here.

Both Doctors Accused of Overprescribing.

One of the doctors is accused of conspiring to distribute oxycodone to patients that were not legitimate. Allegedly, the doctor surrendered his DEA registration. This terminated his authority to prescribe controlled substances such as oxycodone. However, he allegedly attempted to use other health care practitioners to continue to prescribe drugs, which the government contends is illegal.

Another doctor involved in the crackdown is charged with illegal distribution of oxycodone. During the execution of a federal search warrant at his offices on March 1, 2012, the doctor voluntarily surrendered his DEA registration. However, he allegedly continued to issue prescriptions to those whom he knew were not legitimate patients.

We continually warn against “voluntarily relinquishing” DEA registrations or medical licenses with any investigation pending as this is treated the same as a revocation in most cases. For an article we have written on this, click here.

Florida Has Experienced Similar Prescription Drug Abuse Crackdowns.

Starting around two years ago, Florida health providers involved in narcotics precribing became routine targets for law enforcement. This was part of a concerted effort by state and federal officials to crackdown on “pill mill” operations. Regulations increased. Lawmakers enacted severe penalties for doctors and other health professionals accused of over-prescribing. Most physicians were banned from dispensing drugs in their offices. The governor created a Florida drug “strike force” with a mission to eliminate any pain clinics that were found to be breaking the law. The Florida Surgeon General and the Board of Medicine made announcements about the “crackdown” on “over-prescribing.”

Since the implementation of the new pain management and prescribing laws, the Florida strike force has made thousands of arrests and seized millions of pills of narcotics. This has resulted in serious concerns by those in the pain management profession.

Law Enforcement will Continue to Pursue Physicians, Pharmacists, Nurses and Other Health Providers.

The recent raid in New York and ongoing actions in Florida demonstrate that law enforcement will continue to pursue health professionals who prescribe large amounts of narcotics.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Overprescribing Charges and DEA Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents 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. Its 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 Include:

Allen, Jonathon. “Doctors Arrested in New York Prescription Drug Crackdown.” Reuters. (June 7, 2012). From http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/06/06/usa-crime-painkillers-idINL1E8H6E3J20120606

CBS News. “98 Arrested in NY Prescription Drug Sweep.” CBS News. (June 6, 2012). From http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57448268/dozens-arrested-in-ny-prescription-drug-bust/

McKenzie-Mulvey, Erin. “U.S. Attorney Lynch, District Attorneys, DEA, Other Law Enforcement Announce Prescription Drug Initiative.” Drug Enforcement Administration. (June 7, 2012). Press Release. From: http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/states/newsrel/2012/nyc060712a.html

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.

Cardinal Health’s Settlement With the DEA Results in Shipment Suspension

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

Cardinal Health and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have reached a settlement which will suspend Cardinal Health’s ability to ship controlled substances from its Florida distribution facility for two years. The company will now supply controlled substances from its distribution center in Jackson, Mississippi.

Cardinal Health’s Settlement Does Not Prevent the DEA from Pursuing Civil Penalties.

The settlement was announced on May 15, 2012. It includes an Administrative Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), the terms of which will apply to all of Cardinal Health’s registered distribution facilities. The MOA will not prevent Cardinal Health from possible civil penalties related to the DEA’s case against the pharmaceutical distributor.

The obligations in the MOA will remain in effect for five years unless the DEA agrees to an earlier termination. Some of the terms require Cardinal Health to improve anti- diversion procedures and keep track of narcotics distributions.

Click here to view the Memorandum of Agreement between Cardinal Health and the DEA.

Cardinal Health’s History with the DEA.

On February 3, 2012, Cardinal Health’s Florida distribution center was served with an Immediate Suspension Order (ISO) from the DEA. The ISO alleged that the distribution center did not maintain effective safeguards against the diversion of controlled substance, including oxycodone.

According to the DEA, Cardinal Health’s Florida facility shipped a large quantity of oxycodone to four Florida pharmacies. The DEA alleged that Cardinal Health did not ensure that these drugs only went to legitimate patients.

The February 2012 ISO was not the DEA’s first action against Cardinal Health’s Florida distribution center. In 2007, the DEA issued an ISO at the facility because it allegedly distributed hydrocodone to illegitimate internet pharmacies. That action, and similar DEA actions at other Cardinal Health facilities across the United States, resulted in a $34 million fine.

Cardinal Health has been operating under an Administrative MOA with the DEA since October 2008. This MOA required Cardinal Health to maintain a compliance program designed to detect and prevent the diversion of controlled substances (as required under the Controlled Substances Act).

According to the DEA, Cardinal Health did not comply with the terms of the October 2008 MOA, which is partly why the agency issued the February 2012 ISO.

Cardinal Health Pursues Litigation Against DEA.

Cardinal Health had filed litigation to challenge the DEA’s decision to impose the ISO, shortly after it happened. Click here for a copy of the Complaint filed in Federal Court in Washington, D.C. Ultimately the federal courts ruled against Cardinal Health on February 29, 2012. For a copy of the Court’s decision against Cardinal click here.

Click here to view other blogs regarding the Cardinal Health case.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians and other health provders in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its 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 Include:

DEA Public Affairs. “DEA Suspends for Two Years Pharmaceutical Wholesale Distributor’s Ability to Sell Controlled Substances from Lakeland, Florida Facility.” United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Press Release. (May 15, 2012). From
http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/pressrel/pr051512.html

Milford, Phil and Tom Schoenberg. “Cardinal DEA Settlement Calls for Two-Year Shipping Halt.” Bloomberg. (May 15, 2012). From
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-05-15/cardinal-dea-settlement-calls-for-two-year-shipping-halt.html

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.

Florida Walgreens Pharmacies Issued Inspection Warrants by the DEA

The recent investigation of a Walgreens distribution center and six Walgreens pharmacy stores in Florida shows that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is continuing to attack pharmacies, including the largest pharmacy chains.

On Wednesday, April 4, 2012, the DEA issued inspection warrants to the Florida Walgreens distribution center and six pharmacies. According to the warrant, the DEA is investigating these Walgreens pharmacies in Florida to determine if the pharmacies are dispensing controlled substances outside the scope of their registration in violation of federal laws and regulation.

The warrant was filed in U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida and also stated that under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, a warrant may be issued for valid public interest and without the type of probable cause needed under criminal law.

The inspection warrants will allow DEA investigators to review pharmacy’ records and receipts. The pharmacies are not required to stop selling controlled substances, which include painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone, during the DEA’s inspection.

The inspection of Walgreens’ pharmacies in Florida is only one of the latest attacks against pharmacies and pain management clinics by the DEA. Earlier this year, the DEA suspended Cardinal Health’s license to distribute controlled substances from one of its distribution centers in Florida. Two CVS pharmacies in Florida were also targeted by the DEA and suspended from selling controlled substances. Both companies are currently fighting the orders in court.

If you own or work at a pharmacy or pain clinic, visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com to learn more about legal matters concerning pain management and prescribing.