Purpose of Florida E-FORCSE Prescription Database Not for Disciplinary or Criminal Prosecution Purposes Against Physicians, Pharmacists or Other Health Professionals

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

8 Indest-2008-5As you are no doubt aware now, Florida has an active prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). It is called the “Electronic-Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substances Evaluation” or “E-FORCSE.” More often it is referred to simply as the “prescription drug database” by Florida physicians.

The Florida Legislature adopted the E-FORCSE system in Florida by Section 893.055, Florida Statutes.

Section 893.055(7)(b), Florida Statutes, States Access to Program’s Database is Limited to Program Manager.

A pharmacy, prescriber, or dispenser shall have access to information in the prescription drug monitoring program’s database which relates to a patient of that pharmacy, prescriber, or dispenser in a manner established by the department as needed for the purpose of reviewing the patient’s controlled substance prescription history. Other access to the program’s database shall be limited to the program’s manager and to the designated program and support staff, who may act only at the direction of the program manager or, in the absence of the program manager, as authorized. Access by the program manager or such designated staff is for prescription drug program management only or for management of the program’s database and its system in support of the requirements of this section and in furtherance of the prescription drug monitoring program. Confidential and exempt information in the database shall be released only as provided in paragraph (c) and s. 893.0551. . . .

Data from E-FORCSE Not Intended to be Used to Bring Disciplinary Action Against Health Care Practitioners.

Most notably, it was not the intent of the Legislature for any state or federal agency to use the data from the E-FORCSE system primarily as evidence for the purpose of taking licensure or disciplinary action against physicians, dentists, pharmacists or other licensed health professionals.

Unfortunately, we have seen cases where, contrary to the Legislature’s intent, data from E-FORCSE has been recited in a case against a licensed health professional as an example of “substandard performance,” “falling below the standard of care,” or professional “negligence.” Additionally, we have been informed of the alleged use of the E-FORCSE system by state and federal law enforcement authorities in criminal investigations and prosecutions of licensed health professionals. However, the exact wording of Sections 893.055 and 893.0551, Florida Statutes, should be carefully analyzed in determining under what conditions access and use of the information are authorized.

Defending Against E-FORCSE Data’s Being Used Against a Health Care Practitioner.

If you are a physician, dentist or pharmacist, and data from E-FORCSE is used in or discussed in any complaint investigation, license investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation, criminal investigation, administrative complaint, charge sheet or indictment, you should ask your attorney to research the advisability of filing a motion to strike it. In addition, your attorney should also consider filing a motion in limine, before any major hearing or trial, to exclude all use or mention of the data and E-FORCSE system.

In addition, the attorney for the licensed health professional may explore the possibility of moving to exclude any and all information and evidence derived from the unauthorized use of the E-FORCSE databank under the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine. To date, we have not seen any cases where this has been done.

Again the exact language of Sections 893.055 and 893.0551, Florida Statutes, should be consulted to determine whether access and use have been properly authorized.

Information on Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program from the Florida Department of Health.

The information below is taken from an informational pamphlet distributed by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) called “E-FORCSE; Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.” It is available online, at http://www.e-forcse.com.

Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Facts.

E-FORCSE will take in controlled substance dispensing data from pharmacies and health care practitioners, and will make the information available to all health care practitioners who can then use the database to guide their decisions when prescribing and dispensing certain highly-abused prescription drugs. With this information, health care practitioners may be able to identify patients who are “doctor shopping”—obtaining multiple prescriptions for the same controlled substance from multiple health care practitioners. Doctor shopping is a felony in Florida.

Who is Required to Report Controlled Substance Dispensing Information to E-FORCSE?

Any health care practitioner who has dispensed a controlled substance in schedule II, III and IV, as defined in section 893.03, Florida Statutes-like OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodine, etc., will be required to report to the database. This includes pharmacies licensed under chapter 465, Florida Statutes, (including mail order and Internet pharmacies that dispense controlled substances into Florida) and health care practitioners licensed under chapters 458, 459, 461, 462, 465, or 466, Florida Statutes.

Who is Not Required to Report Controlled Substance Dispensing Information to E-FORCSE?

A health care practitioner who:

– Administers a controlled substance directly to a patient if the amount is adequate to treat the patient during that particular treatment session;
– Administers a controlled substance to a patient or resident receiving care as a patient, at a hospital, nursing home, ambulatory surgical center, hospice or intermediate care facility for the developmentally disabled;
– Administers or dispenses a controlled substance in the health care system of the Florida Department of Corrections;
– Administers a controlled substance in the emergency room of a licensed hospital;
– Administers or dispenses a controlled substance to a patient under the age of 16; and
– Dispenses a one-time, 72-hour re-supply of a controlled substance.

How Can E-FORCSE Help Improve a Patient’s Standard of Care?

– It allows the health care practitioners to choose and prescribe controlled substances that will not negatively interact with medicines prescribed by other health care practitioners.
– Pharmacists can determine for their patients if their health care practitioners have prescribed controlled substances that might negatively interact when used together.
– Health care practitioners can determine if their patient has had multiple prescriptions for the same drugs from multiple health care practitioners. This identifies those patients potentially engaged in the crime of doctor shopping. When health care practitioners intervene, they can help their patients find treatment.

How Can E-FORCSE Help Improve the Public Health of Florida?

Health care practitioners can identify a potentially illegal diversion pattern for drugs when they request and receive a Patient Activity Report (PAR). A PAR can alert health care practitioners to doctor shopping. In addition, this information can assist law enforcement, medical regulatory boards and the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) with active investigations into criminal activity regarding controlled prescription drugs.

Who Has Access to the Information Stored in E-FORCSE?

A health care practitioner who is subject to licensure or regulation by the DOH under chapter 458, chapter 459, chapter 461, chapter 462, chapter 464, chapter 465, or chapter 466, Florida Statutes, will have direct access to their specific patient’s information. Other direct access to information will be limited to the E-FORCSE program manager and designated staff for the purpose of program management.

Indirect access may be requested by the following organizations upon being verified and authenticated by E-FORCSE staff.

– DOH or appropriate health care regulatory boards who are involved in a specific investigation involving a designated individual for one or more prescribed controlled substances;
– The Attorney General (AG) for Medicaid fraud cases involving prescribed controlled substances; and
– A law enforcement agency during active investigations regarding potential criminal activity, fraud or theft of prescribed controlled substances.

Are Health Care Practitioners Required to Access E-FORCSE Before Prescribing a Controlled Substance?

Health care practitioners will not be required to access E-FORCSE before prescribing a controlled substance. It will be voluntary; however, physicians are encouraged to use it as a tool to improve patient care.

Is E-FORCSE Compliant with the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)?

Yes, in addition to meeting the federal HIPAA requirements, E-FORCSE will meet all required DOH security requirements.

What is the Penalty for Disclosure of Confidential Information in the E-FORCSE Database?

A health care practitioner or other individual who has access to the information in the E-FORCSE database who discloses confidential information will be committing a third-degree felony.

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 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

As a health care practitioner, do you use E-FORCSE? Why or why not? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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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“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 © 1996-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

FDA Issues New Warning for Popular Type 2 Diabetes Drug

2 Indest-2009-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently warned that a new class of type 2 diabetes drugs may cause a serious condition and can lead to hospitalization. Included in that warning is Invokana, the first in a new class of frontline treatment for type 2 diabetes. It was approved in 2013 and quickly gained popularity among health care providers and patients. Other drugs in the class include Invokament, Jardiance, Xigduo XR, Farxinga and Glyxambi. These drugs, known as SGLT2 inhibitors, are intended to improve glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes by blocking the absorption of glucose in the kidneys.

The Problem.

According to the FDA’s warning, SGLT2 inhibitors can lead to the development of diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious condition that can result in cerebral edema, pulmonary edema, heart attacks, strokes, cardiac dysrhythmia, nonspecific myocardial injury, diabetic retinopathy, severe dehydration, coma and death. The FDA recently took notice of these significant health risks and issued a safety announcement that warned of the serious side effects potentially resulting from treatment with SGLT2 inhibitors. To read the FDA’s warning, click here. To read one of our blogs on a similar case, click here. Click here to find out how The Health Law Firm can help you with a situation such as this.

Comments?

Did you develop ketoacidosis after taking a SGLT2 drug such as Inkovana? If you or a loved one took Invokana or another type 2 diabetes drug that resulted in ketoacidosis, you may have legal options. Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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.

KeyWords: Food and Drug Administration, FDA, defense attoryney, defense lawyer, defense counsil, Inkovana, Type 2 Diabetes Drug, SGLT2 inhibitors, products liability attorney, products liability lawyer, ketoacidosis, safety announcement, recall, safety warning, drug side effects, plaintiff products liability attorney, health care attorney, health care lawyer, health law, The Health Law Firm

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 © 1996-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Pharmacies May be Liable for Filling Valid Prescriptions

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D.

Florida pharmacies have had their potential liability significantly expanded by the Fifth District Court of Appeal. In its recent decision, Oleckna v. Daytona Discount Pharmacy, the appellate court held that a pharmacy owes a duty to its patients that go beyond following the prescribing physician’s directions and properly dispensing the medication.

The court defined the pharmacy’s duty to use due care in filling a prescription to mean more than what it called “robotic compliance” with the instructions of the prescribing physician.

From the court’s decision and some others from around the state it would seem that Florida pharmacists are now under an obligation to question the quantity, frequency, dosage, combination, and possibly even the purpose of a valid prescription. Florida pharmacies are no longer simply a conduit for validly prescribed prescription medications. They are now an integral part of the health care system where trained professionals are expected to act as a check and balance on physicians and other prescribers.

This decision is in keeping with recent Florida Board of Pharmacy cases dealing with narcotic pain medications. The Board has interpreted Section 465.003(6), Florida Statutes, and Rule 64B16-27.820, Florida Administrative Code, to place a duty on a pharmacist to use his or her skill and experience to evaluate the propriety of every prescription presented on a global level.

While courts and the Board are more than willing to expand the scope of a pharmacist’s duty to his or her patients, unfortunately, neither have provided any prospective guidance on how to fulfill the duty.

Suggestions for Compliance.

Below are some suggestions for ensuring your pharmacy is fulfilling its obligation to its patients. This list is by no means exhaustive and is only intended to offer some basic guidance.

1. Know the physician and verify the credentials of an unfamiliar one;
2. Check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP);
3. Do not fill prescriptions that are more than 30 days old without verifying them with the prescribing physician;
4. Question higher than normal dosages and more frequent administration instructions;
5. Do not provide early refills without verifiable documentation and contact the physician when the patient is seeking an early refill on a medication with a high potential for abuse (the physician is usually in the best position to recognize drug seeking behaviors);
6. Flag concerning prescriptions for mandatory counseling prior to dispensing to give you an opportunity to discuss the risks with the patient;
7. Check the patient’s profile for interactions and discuss them with the patient and, if necessary, the prescribing physician;
8. Periodically check with the prescribing physician on long term medications;
9. Document everything done to verify the propriety of a prescription in the patient’s record; and
10. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to refuse a fill.

In addition to these steps, you should also be conducting regular staff meetings and routine reviews of your processes to ensure that they remain functional and able to be followed.

Comments?

Do you think a pharmacy or pharmacist should be held liable for filling valid prescriptions? How do you verify you or your employees are in compliance? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA 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 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: Lance O. Leider 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, Florida 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 © 1996-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Selling Tobacco Can Get You Penalized By Insurance Panels

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

Beware: selling cigarettes could burn a hole in your pocket.

The CVS Health Corporation (CVS), the nation’s second-largest drug store, is currently in the midst of launching a tobacco-free prescription-drug network. The company announced in October 2014, that it will begin offering a tobacco-free pharmacy plan to employers, unions, and insurance companies for which its Caremark arm manages prescription benefits. CVS is slapping patients with an extra co-payment “penalty” if they purchase their medications from pharmacies that sell tobacco products, regardless of whether the patient is a tobacco user.

According to US News, by adding a variable co-payment of up to $15, CVS hopes that this new strategy, comparable to a narrow network insurance design, will perpetuate the company’s health-and-wellness based initiatives.

The new network will start in 2015. Customers will receive a list of participating pharmacies before any network change will take place.

Click here to read more from US News.

The Tobacco-Free Retail Trend.

Target and CVS have become the poster children for tobacco-free retailers. In 1996, Target spearheaded the fight against tobacco by eliminating all sales of the toxic substance. In September 2014, the CVS Corporation followed suit and completed its tobacco-free overhaul by removing all tobacco products from store shelves across the nation.

The tobacco-free pharmacy networks would include CVS and Target nationally, as well as local or regional pharmacies such as independent pharmacies that abstain from tobacco sales. Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies, two large-scale rival drug chains that sell tobacco, as well as any other grocery or community pharmacy, should expect patient penalties and negative impacts on prescription-drug revenue.

Those Participating in the Tobacco-Free Network.

According to Yahoo! Finance, CVS representatives said the network was created in a response to pharmacy benefit management (PBM) clients that indicated interest in tobacco-free pharmacies. The tobacco-free network will only be used by the PBM customers that voluntarily participate.

The first employer to sign on is the city of Philadelphia, as it promotes a tobacco-free workforce. Philadelphia officials estimate that between 150 and 200 CVS pharmacies will participate in the Philadelphia network.

To read more on this topic from Yahoo! Finance, click here.

Sincere Motives or a Monopoly in the Making?

There are a myriad of arguments regarding CVS’ genuine motive behind the tobacco-free network. Health benefit analysts argue that the network is a disguised anti-competition scheme. With the announcement of the new network plan, CVS opens itself up to criticism for appearing to steer patients to CVS pharmacies, or strong arm the competition into giving up lucrative tobacco revenue. Although the corporation denies these claims of ulterior motives, Dave Balto, a former policy director at the U.S. Federal Trade Commission argued that “…It’s really another effort to limit the ability of their rivals to effectively compete.”

Independent pharmacies are also questioning the industry benefits of such a plan. Small, local pharmacies that have not carried tobacco products for years may be overlooked by the consumers knowingly aware of CVS as a tobacco-free drug store. These mom-and-pop pharmacies will be forced to spend a pretty penny on increased marketing to stand on their own two feet against these mass retail chains.

The Narrow Network Comparison.

Many critics argue that the new CVS plan could be considered a narrow network strategy. A narrow network applies to any health insurance plan that places constraints on doctors and hospitals that are available to their beneficiaries. Typically plans will not cover medical services received out-of-network or they will increase co-payments.

These designs are becoming more common for insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers. By limiting the choices, insurers say they can better focus on the quality of medical care that is delivered to plan customers.

Comments?

What is your opinion of the new CVS tobacco-free network plan? Do you think it will be beneficial for overall community health or more detrimental to the livelihood of small pharmacies? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA 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 http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Silverman, Ed and Ziobro, Paul. “CVS Plays Hardball with Rival Drug Chains.” (October 20, 2014). From: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/cvs-plays-hardball-rival-drug-231400764.html

Murphy, Tom. “CVS Health Stretches Anti-tobacco Push to New Prescription Drug Network.” (October 21, 2014). From: http://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2014/10/21/cvs-develops-tobacco-free-prescription-network

About the Author: Lance O. Leider 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, Florida 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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Toughens Up Drug Compounding Law for Out-of-State Pharmacies

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A new, stricter law on Florida’s compounding pharmacy industry took effect October 1, 2014.
The new law increases the restrictions for out-of-state compounding pharmacies and outsourcing facilities that ship medications into Florida. The law also gives the Florida Board of Pharmacy and Florida Department of Health (DOH) more power to oversee and penalize these companies. Click here to read the new law.

The law was enacted to increase the standards for compounding pharmacies that create medications that are supposed to be tailored to the needs of individual patients. In an effort to prevent another nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis, similar efforts to tighten control on compounding pharmacies have been implemented by other states across the country. Click here to read a prior blog on the fungal meningitis outbreak.

The Lowdown on the New Law.

The bill requires an out-of-state compounding pharmacy or an outsourcing facility to obtain a nonresident sterile compounding permit before shipping products into Florida. Any currently-registered nonresident pharmacies must be permitted by February 28, 2015. However, all compounded sterile products shipped, mailed, delivered, or dispensed into the Sunshine State must meet Florida’s standards for sterile compounding.

The law establishes application and inspection requirements for the nonresident sterile compounding permit, as well as increased responsibilities for the Florida DOH and the Board of Pharmacy.

Under the law, the Florida DOH and Board of Pharmacy are given enhanced oversight for these out-of-state compounding pharmacies, including the authority to inspect a pharmacy or sterile compounding permittee; the cost of which is picked up by the pharmacy or permittee. The Board is authorized to discipline a nonresident pharmacy for conduct which causes or could cause serious injury, without waiting 180 days for the resident state to act. The Board is also authorized to discipline nonresident pharmacies and sterile compounding permittees for specified acts of noncompliance.

New Standards Triggered by Tainted Compounded Medications.

These new standards are being implemented two years after a nationwide outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to contaminated drugs made by a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts. Florida is no stranger to allegations of tainted compounded products. In May 2012, Franck’s pharmacy in Ocala, Florida, was accused of distributing eye medications that contained a fungal infection. To read more: click here for the first blog and here for the second blog.

It’s likely these new permits are a direct result of the recent issues with compounded medications and compounding pharmacies. The goal of these permits is to help authorities, such as the DOH and the Board of Pharmacy, track pharmacies compounding sterile products.

Comments?

What do you think of the law to increase restrictions on out-of-state compounding pharmacies that ship medications into Florida? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA 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 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Shedden, Mary. “Tougher Compounding Rules Finally Law.” Health News Florida. (September 30, 2014). From: http://bit.ly/1xBQtS0

Florida House Bill 7077

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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

DEA Offers New Prescription Drug Return Policy

3 Indest-2009-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Looking to improve the prescription drug abuse epidemic in the United States, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced September 8, 2014, that it would permit patients to return their unused prescription medications to pharmacies. This new rule, covering all types of prescription drugs, will give patients the option of mailing unused prescriptions to an authorized collector using packaging provided by the pharmacy.

Hopefully this will help to eliminate many of the problematic situations that pharmacists and physicians found themselves in when they accumulated returned or unused medications from patients for destruction.

This move intends to address the rising number of injuries and deaths associated with controlled substance drugs, particularly opioids. Reducing the stockpile of unneeded prescription drugs from American homes will limit teenagers’ accessibility to their parents’ medications and reduce burglaries for such substances. According to The New York Times, this demographic is known to be the most prevalent abuser of such controlled substances.

To read the full story from The New York Times, click here.

Prior Methods of Prescription Drug Disposal.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, patients were only allowed to dispose of unused drugs themselves or surrender them to law enforcement. Personal disposal of controlled substances typically means flushing pills down a toilet or throwing them in the trash. Because this can pose a risk toward animals and clean drinking water, these methods are frowned upon by environmentalists and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Drug “take back” programs are another option when it comes to disposing of unused prescription drugs. These events are organized by the DEA and are held twice a year at local police departments across the country. During these programs, citizens can anonymously drop off any unused prescription drugs. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reported that a nationwide event in April 2014 brought in 390 tons of prescription drugs at more than 6,000 sites. In the past four years, these collection events have removed from circulation more than 4.1 million pounds of prescription medication from across the country.

Although these events prove successful, many healthcare professionals are optimistic for the bigger impact the pharmacy “take back” programs may have. Providing consumers convenient year-round access to medication disposals will be positive reinforcement to regularly dispose of unused prescription medications. This method is believed to be more likely to accomplish the mission of shrinking the pool of unused and potentially fatal controlled substances in American homes.

To read the full article from The Wall Street Journal, click here.

Ironing Out Details of the New Plan.

There are many logistics to consider to ensure these pharmaceutical “take back” programs will be successful. The programs will not be mandatory, as the decision to take part will be the under the sole discretion of each company. The pharmacies must voluntarily choose to register with the DEA in order to start receiving the leftover prescriptions. In the past, pharmacies have not generally wanted to accept the hassle of offering such a program. However, the DEA expects many pharmacies to jump on the bandwagon to showcase good-faith effort of keeping drugs out of the wrong hands.

DEA-approved organizations collecting the unused drugs will include hospital pharmacies, narcotic treatment programs, and companies contracted by other collectors to destroy controlled substances.

There are concerns circling the initiative. Some pharmacies do not have the resources required to accommodate incinerators, thus limiting the locations available to consumers. In addition, professionals are concerned with the lack of regulations listed in the new plan. There are no set requirements on how the prescriptions should be destroyed. The rules simply mandate that the drugs are altered into a permanent, irreversible state.

The burden of payment has also not been discussed or outlined in the new plan. Who will cover the cost of packaging and disposal has yet to be decided. Also, to be considered is the challenge of keeping the returned prescriptions safe until destruction. An unsecured, unmonitored return site containing stock piles of addictive drugs would be a gold mine for many addicts and criminals. Should a theft occur at one of these drop-off receptacles, who would be held liable? The American Pharmacists Association has already expressed concern of pharmacy legal liability.

The biggest obstacle of all, however, may be convincing the general public that returning unused pills is a necessary moral obligation.

Comments?

Would you participate in this type of prescription drug return program? As a pharmacist or someone who works at a pharmacy, what are your concerns with this take back program? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Consult With A Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Pharmacists and Pharmacies.

We routinely provide deposition coverage to pharmacists, pharmacies and other health professionals being deposed in criminal cases, negligence cases, civil cases or disciplinary cases involving other health professionals. We can review business referral arrangements and provide legal counsel on whether they are not in violation of federal and state anti-referral laws. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing physicians, physician assistants and other health professionals in investigations and at Board of Pharmacy hearings.

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

Sources:

Barrett, Devlin. “U.S. to Allow Pharmacies to Take Back Unused Prescription Drugs.” The Wall Street Journal. (September 08, 2014). From: http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-to-allow-pharmacies-to-take-back-unused-prescription-drugs-1410186602

Saint Louis, Catherine. “D.E.A. to Allow Return of Unused Pills to Pharmacies.” The New York Times. (September 08, 2014). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/09/health/unused-pills-return-to-pharmacies.html?_r=0

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 © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

OIG Issues Advisory Opinion to Specialty Pharmacy for Support Service Payments

LLA Headshot smBy Lenis L. Archer, J.D., M.P.H., The Health Law Firm

There is an inherent risk in entering into financial arrangements where payments to a service provider are only made when a referral is generated. On August 15, 2014, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) made this perfectly clear in an unfavorable advisory opinion issued to a specialty pharmacy that wanted to pay local retail pharmacies for providing support services to it.

Background of Request for OIG Advisory Opinion.

According to the OIG, the requestor, a specialty pharmacy, dispenses specialty pharmaceuticals used to treat a variety of chronic and life-threatening illnesses. The specialty pharmacy stated that the drugs offered at its establishment are frequently unavailable to retail pharmacies. In light of this, the specialty pharmacy asked whether it would be permissible to enter into agreements with various local pharmacies in which the specialty pharmacy would provide its specialty drug prescriptions to local pharmacies’ patients. Under the proposed contractual arrangement, the local pharmacies would be required to provide various support services, including:

1. Accepting the prescription from the patient or prescriber;
2. Gathering patient and prescriber demographic information;
3. Recording patient-specific history and use, including drug names, strength and directions;
4. Patient counseling;
5. Informing the patients about access to specialty drugs, including the availability from pharmacies other than the specialty pharmacy;
6. Obtaining patient consent to forward the prescription to the specialty pharmacy;
7. Transferring prescription information to the specialty pharmacy; and
8. Providing ongoing patient assessments for subsequent refills.

The retail pharmacies would be paid a “per-fill fee” by the specialty pharmacy at the time that the initial prescription was transmitted and upon each subsequent refill.

OIG Issued Negative Opinion Due to Anti-Kickback Statute.

The OIG issued an unfavorable opinion for this proposed agreement, concluding that the federal Anti-Kickback Statute was implicated because the specialty pharmacy would pay a per-fill fee for support services each time a local pharmacy referred a specialty drug prescription. After evaluating the arrangement, the OIG concluded that the per-fill fees were inherently subject to abuse because they were paid only when the support services provided by the retail pharmacy resulted in a referral to the specialty pharmacy. Thus, the OIG found that such a per-fill fee is directly linked to business generated by the local pharmacy for the specialty pharmacy, and could influence the local pharmacy’s referral decisions. OIG noted that the Anti-Kickback Statute is implicated if one purpose of the remuneration is to generate referrals.

Click here to read OIG Advisory Opinion No. 14-06.

Exceptions to Anti-Kickback Laws.

Like many other regulatory frameworks, the Anti-Kickback Statute has exceptions. The law provides a number of safe harbors to the rule which allow otherwise impermissible referral arrangements to pass muster.

Because the exceptions are numerous and often subject to change, it is highly recommended that any new business arrangement, or substantial change to an existing one, is reviewed by a health law attorney experienced in the area of Anti-Referral and Anti-Kickback Laws.

Consult With A Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Pharmacists and Pharmacies.

We routinely provide deposition coverage to pharmacists, pharmacies and other health professionals being deposed in criminal cases, negligence cases, civil cases or disciplinary cases involving other health professionals.

We can review business referral arrangements and provide legal counsel on whether they are not in violation of federal and state anti-referral laws.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing physicians, physician assistants and other health professionals in investigations and at Board of Pharmacy hearings. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. “OIG Advisory Opinion No. 14-06″ (August 15, 2014). From: https://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/docs/advisoryopinions/2014/AdvOpn14-06.pdf

Ciesla, Frank, Christian, Beth, and Burd, Ari. “Office of Inspector General (OIG) Issues Unfavorable Advisory Opinion to Specialty Pharmacy for Support Service Payments.” The National Law Review. (August 18, 2014). From: http://www.natlawreview.com/article/office-inspector-general-oig-issues-unfavorable-advisory-opinion-to-specialty-pharma

About the Author: Lenis L. Archer is as 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, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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