Tag Archives: pill mill laws

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.

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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.

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.