PAINKILLER LAW: When Crime’s All You Look For, You See Too Many Criminals

If you wake up every morning, strap on a badge and gun and go fight the War on Drugs, you come to view the world in a certain way. If your goal for each workday is to go in peace and not come back in pieces, your perspective on society, people, crime and your role in combating evil are invariably shaped by your experience. That’s why it’s a mistake for the DEA to bring its ordinary approach against drug crime to the issue of prescription drug abuse. But that is just what the agency is doing. It is basically treating like a criminal any healthcare professional who shows up on its radar.

At the recent joint conference sponsored by the California Medical Board and Board of Pharmacy, I heard the DEA speak about rampant drug diversion, pharmacists’ widespread complicity in prescription drug abuse, doctors wantonly prescribing outside the standard of care, drug dealers in white coats, and the DEA’s determination to crack down. The problem is, no one can quantify the degree of “complicity” by the nation’s pharmacists, or durably judge when a provider is prescribing outside the standard of care. The DEA says it’s happening, and its agents are the ones with the guns, and so, well, it must be happening.

The sense of things that I had coming into the conference was unfortunately not at all changed by what I heard there. The DEA’s talk was dominated by war stories of pharmaceutical distributors selling Oxy out the back door, of pharmacists ordering more than they need and keeping lousy records of where it all went, of doctors making megabucks writing scrips for no reason, and patients visiting websites devoted to the celebration of hallucinogens. Seriously, that’s what the speaker talked about. That’s clearly not the entire scope of the issue, and those characterizations don’t fairly define all medical providers or pharmacists or patients. None the less, the DEA is bringing its habitual mindset to a new class of cases and investigations – and a new “target” population – and that’s the wrong approach.

Clearly, the DEA is in reaction mode, just as Medical Boards nationwide are, and it’s being blamed for missing the early signs of what became a prescription drug abuse crisis. In reaction to the blame, the DEA is redirecting the pressure onto doctors, pharmacists and others who the DEA thinks are responsible for whatever the agency is supposed to be trying to stop. And what exactly is to be stopped? Who should decide whether a patient needs the drugs he or she is given: The prescriber, or the federal agent? If a doctor prescribes a lot of pills to a lot of patients, does it mean he or she is operating a pill mill? If a pharmacist fills prescriptions, is the pharmacist automatically part of the problem? And if the meaning of “outside the standard of care” can’t even be succinctly articulated in the law, how are law enforcement agents to know where the line is, BEFORE they decide a practitioner or pharmacist is dirty?

These are the questions all of us must vigilantly continue asking, persistently and if need be peskily, in this latest iteration of the War on Drugs. There is no easy answer, no matter what the DEA might think.

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PAINKILLER LAW: ARE ABUSE STATS THE NEXT “YELLOW CAKE” SPEECH?

The National Center on Drug Abuse, affiliated with the U.S. Government’s National Institutes of Health, compiled and put out a statistic awhile ago that 5.1 million Americans had taken prescription painkillers in the past month for “nonmedical reasons.” The statistic, released in 2010, is still being turned to today by the USG and others as calls to action against healthcare providers who prescribe Schedule II through V pain medication. The government’s argument then and now is fundamentally flawed, and unless it’s confronted, it threatens to become the government’s next “Yellow Cake” speech and recklessly target and penalize innocent and ethical healthcare professionals. The Yellow Cake speech, delivered to the United Nations by former Gen. Colin Powell during the George W. Bush administration, was the 16-word pronouncement that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction as a result of obtaining nuclear material, or “yellow cake,” from an African nation. The intel, of course, turned out to be wrong, and Gen. Powell has repeatedly said that delivering that speech is the biggest regret of his entire career.

First, the Center’s statistic itself is dubious. Who are these 5.1 million Americans? Patients? People with current, valid prescriptions? People whose dose has been monitored by their doctors? How do those surveyed draw the line between “medical use” and “nonmedical use,” and was there a static definition of “nonmedical” utilized as a standard measure from person to person? Or was “nonmedical use” a completely subjective notion, varying widely from person to person surveyed? The statistic is a compelling read, but its foundation, upon the most rudimentary examination, is shaky.

Second, the statistic says nothing about whether the source of the “nonmedical” painkillers is the user’s healthcare provider. Were these lawfully prescribed pills? Black market resells? Internet Oxy? There is no connection made between user and healthcare provider.

Third, and most importantly, the government mistakenly draws this connection in its current pronouncements about the need to “crack down” or “do something” about prescription drug abuse. The Office of National Drug Control Policy, the DEA, states’ Medical Boards and other powerful agencies are looking for someone to blame, and they’re focusing “like lasers,” to borrow from former president Clinton, on doctors, osteopaths, physician’s assistants, and pharmacists. No doubt there are some corrupt providers, pill mills do exist, drug diversion onto the black market is real, and a lot of people are addicted to prescription painkillers. But government at all levels nationwide is taking a hamfisted, impulsive, under-informed and careless approach to complaints, investigations, license revocation proceedings, lawsuits and criminal prosecutions. And with the pressure coming from legislators, patient advocates and vocal critics of prescription painkillers, the ethical healthcare provider should expect to come under investigative scrutiny even if in a different enforcement environment no official attention would be warranted.

Amid the swirling turbine of subpoenas, search warrants, legislation that second-guesses or replaces medical judgment, and other risks, healthcare providers must ensure that they are in full compliance with all criminal laws affecting and regulating prescription painkillers.

The Meister Law Offices has pioneered a critical new area of criminal defense – PAINKILLER LAW: CRIMINAL LAW COMPLIANCE FOR HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS. We are here to help. We help you verify, achieve and maintain compliance, so you can practice knowing you’re doing right by your patients and the law, and so if the law comes knocking anyway, you’re ready and able to stand up for yourself.

Call us today at 213.293.3737 for a free consultation, or write to us at info@painkillerlaw.com.

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PAINKILLER LAW: CRIMINAL LAW COMPLIANCE FOR HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS

For Medical Doctors, Doctors of Osteopathy, and Physician’s Assistants:

An Apple A Day Keeps the Doctor Away, and Compliance Can Protect You from the D.E.A.

If you are an MD, DO or PA, you worked very, very hard, for many, many years to earn your degree and license, and build your practice to success. You didn’t suffer through medical school or undertake grueling PA training in order to get indicted. So why let investigative priorities dictated by Washington politicians and bureaucrats, which translate into aggressive and sometimes reckless law enforcement activity, target you unfairly and threaten your life’s work?

It is a sad truth of healthcare practice today that providing patients with needed relief for severe, chronic or debilitating pain can be dangerous business. Dangerous because you have the D.E.A., the F.D.A., Medical Boards, state regulators and local law enforcement looking over your shoulder to see whether you are “prescribing without a legitimate medical purpose” or “practicing outside the accepted standards of medicine.” Who even knows what those vague statements mean in a given situation? Whose judgment should control – that of the healthcare professional, or of a federal agent without a day’s medical training?

As many questions as current law enforcement policy and practice beg, most healthcare practitioners are not prepared for the day when the D.E.A. shows up with a warrant, accusing them of being nothing more than highly educated drug dealers. Such heavy handed tactics – in use with alarming frequency across the country, and boasted of by law enforcement agencies – can rattle even the most ethical and seasoned practitioner.

Be ready. Be in compliance with the laws governing prescription of Schedule II painkillers and pain medication, and let the Meister Law Offices help. Do this before the door-knock, before the subpoena, before the administrative inspection, before the D.E.A. or its counterparts have made up their minds about you. You can’t necessarily stop the government from investigating you, but if you are in compliance with laws governing prescription of Schedule II painkillers and pain medication, you don’t need to stop anything. You need to prevail in the end, and the best chance you have is to be in compliance before the inquiry ever starts.

From patient intake to prescription practice, use of electronic databases to protect against doctor-shopping, from internal controls to ongoing government-sponsored training for you and your staff, we will tell you how you are in compliance, what areas might deserve additional attention, and how to maintain a compliant practice that serves your patients safely, ethically and properly within the meaning of the applicable criminal law.

Call the Meister Law Offices today at 213.293.3737 for a free consultation.

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PAINKILLER LAW: CRIMINAL LAW COMPLIANCE FOR HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS

From the Meister Law Offices:

Doubtless in the past several years the availability and prescription rates of pain medication such as Oxycontin and other opioid derivatives have increased dramatically. So-called “pill mills” do exist; there is likely diversion of Schedule II narcotics from manufacturers, and perhaps some pharmacies, to the black market and the street.
However, the link law enforcement is drawing between illegal activity, and the everyday legitimate professional activities of the nation’s healthcare providers, has not been established. Since the vast majority of our nation’s healthcare providers are legitimate, ethical, honest and upstanding, the link will not be established. But don’t expect that to stop the DEA or local multiagency task force from busting in on your waiting room and announcing a search warrant. There goes your practice, your reputation, and possibly your license and livelihood.

Don’t become the next sacrificial lamb in the government’s game of enforcement catch-up. Just because it’s trendy and easy to blame healthcare providers for the problem of prescription painkiller abuse, doesn’t mean you should let the government have its way in destroying everything you worked so hard to build.

The way to protect your patients, your employees, your practice and yourself is by finding out and knowing now, today, whether your practice is in compliance with applicable federal and state criminal laws governing prescription, dispensing, and distribution of Schedule II painkillers. If you are ever audited, or otherwise find yourself under investigative scrutiny, you’ll want to know that you’re ready, that your practice is in full compliance with the law, and that you’ve nothing to fear from governmental attention.

Contact the Meister Law Offices, 213.293.3737 for a free consultation, or email us at info@painkillerlaw.com.

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PAINKILLER LAW: CRIMINAL LAW COMPLIANCE FOR HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS

Preventive Medicine Every Healthcare Practice Needs

The Meister Law Offices provides criminal law compliance legal services for healthcare providers who write prescriptions for Schedule II painkillers and pain medication. No healthcare practice can afford to risk noncompliance at a time when healthcare practitioners and pharmacists are under unprecedented government suspicion and often incredibly reckless and injurious law enforcement activity. Our firm’s unique “CCC – Comprehensive Compliance Checkup” – is a pioneering approach to this issue, and offers MD’s, DO’s, PA’s and pharmacists the thorough and in-depth analysis their practices need to achieve and maintain compliance with all laws regulating prescription painkillers and pain medication.

If you are a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, physician’s assistant, or a pharmacist, your profession is under federal and state law enforcement scrutiny worse than at any time in decades. This is not because of anything you’ve individually done; it is because the government believes there is an epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse in the United States.

These days the DEA and state and local law enforcement around the nation are raiding doctor’s offices, medical clinics, pharmacies, distribution centers and other healthcare providers’ facilities in search of what is suddenly being called the latest trend in American drug abuse. ┬áDo not let yourself be the next victim. ┬áCall the Meister Law Offices today at 213.293.3737 for a free consultation, or email us at info@painkillerlaw.com

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