Arizona Appeals Court Affirms Dentist’s Suspension Over Questionable Prescriptions

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On December 13, 2016, an Arizona appeals court affirmed the suspension of a dentist who allegedly had a history of opioid addiction and who also allegedly wrote dozens of questionable prescriptions. The Arizona appeals court held that the state dental board didn’t violate his due process rights and had substantial evidence backing its decision that it wasn’t safe for him to practice.

The Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One, concluded that the Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners had acted within its authority by suspending Dr. Michael Wassef’s license to practice dentistry in the state. This was following Dr. Wassef’s refusal to submit to the dental board’s requests after it discovered evidence suggesting he had relapsed. The appeals court decision upheld a lower court’s decision affirming the dental board’s order.

History of Opioid Abuse?

Dr. Wassef’s possible relapse into opioid addiction reportedly first came to the attention of authorities in March 2014. This allegedly occurred when a pharmacist contacted the dental board to raise concerns about Dr. Wassef’s prescription-writing practices, according to the court’s decision. The board discovered that he had received prescriptions for controlled substances in increasing amounts over a six-year time period. Additionally, Dr. Wassef allegedly wrote 44 prescriptions in two years for the muscle relaxant Soma for his wife, his assistant and his assistant’s daughter, the opinion said.

After he tested positive for Soma and another medication, Dr. Wassef refused to submit to an assessment. As a result, the dental board issued an interim order that he obtain an inpatient substance-abuse evaluation, according to the opinion. He refused, and the dental board suspended his license in April 2014.

Arizona State Court Sides With Board.

Dr. Wassef contended that the board denied him due process by suspending his license without allowing him the opportunity to defend himself. Despite Wassef’s claims, the appeals court wasn’t swayed, explaining that the board didn’t have to give him a hearing before entering the interim order and can summarily suspend a licensee when it concludes.

The state board had more than enough evidence to conclude that Dr. Wassef was unsafe to practice dentistry, the appeals court panel held. “Under these circumstances, the board was not required to accept Dr. Wassef’s explanations and Dr. Wassef did not disprove the board’s suspicions,” the panel held. “Thus, the dental board had reasonable grounds to take emergency action to prevent harm to the public.”

To read the decision on this matter, click here.

To read more on the repercussions of choices such as this, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Serious Allegations Need Serious Legal Representation.

When a dentist, physician, nurse, psychologist, pharmacist, or other licensed health professional is accused of drug abuse or alcohol abuse, this is a very serious matter. As happened in this case, your license can be suspended putting you out of work and terminating your ability to pay for a legal defense.

Several things are a must. You must have good professional liability insurance that pays for the legal defense of complaints filed against your license, preferable with $50,000 or more of coverage for this type of event. Second, you must immediately retain experience health care legal counsel who deals with these types of cases routinely. Often there are options to such a harsh remedy as a suspension. Additionally, all the time spent from initial notification of the complaint, should be used in obtaining evidence to show that the dentist is not currently impaired. This can be routine random urinalysis testing, treatment with psychiatrist and certified addictions professionals, evaluation by special physicians health programs and other actions.

Usually, suspension is only appropriate when the physicians condition makes him an immediate threat to patient safety. Being able to prove that the physician is not a threat is te key to preventing a suspension. Also, using the time and money in appealing such a decision may, in may cases, be better used in requesting an emergency hearing and getting the evidence needed for that hearing.

Consult With An Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Dentists and Other Health Professionals.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents dentists, dental technicians, 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.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing dentists and dental hygienists and other health professionals in investigations and at Board of dentistry hearings and other legal matters. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Posses, Shayna. “Ariz. Court Backs Dentist’s Suspension Over Dubious Scripts.” Law360. (December 13, 2016). Web.

“Arizona Court Backs Dentist’s Suspension.” Lexis Nexis. (December 13, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law 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 Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Legal representation for dentists, defense attorney for dentists, legal counsel for dentists and dental assistants, defense attorney for health care professionals, DEA investigation defense attorney, legal representation for DEA investigations, legal representation for board investigations, defense attorney for board of dentistry matters, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, dental board defense work, dental board investigations, impaired dentists, impaired professionals, physician health programs, administrative hearings, complaint investigation defense attorney for dentists, appeals (and variations on appeal ) of adverse license action, license revocation, emergency suspension orders, appeals of emergency suspension orders, Professionals Resources Network (PRN) attorney, Florida dentist defense attorney, Virginia dentist defense lawyer, Louisiana dentist defense legal counsel, Colorado dentist defense lawyer, Kentucky legal dentist defense counsel, District of Columbia dentist legal representation

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

CVS Blacklists Second Set of Doctors Accused of Overprescribing Painkillers

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

CVS is again stepping up its own internal efforts to combat the nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic. According to Reuters, the second largest retail pharmacy chain announced it is cutting off access to the most powerful painkillers for more than 36 doctors and health care providers around the country. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been keeping a close eye on CVS over the past few years. According to Reuters, CVS began revoking the dispensing privileges of certain providers back in 2011. CVS disclosed this round of suspensions on August 21, 2013.

To read the article from Reuters, click here.

CVS Closely Analyzed Prescription Practices of Health Care Providers Before Suspending Dispensing Privileges.

CVS said the suspension followed an analysis of prescriptions brought to its drugstores from March 2010 through January 2012, for painkillers such as oxycondone, hydrocodone, and methadone, according to Reuters. CVS said it first identified several dozen health care providers, from its database of nearly one million, with “extreme” patters of prescribing high-risk drugs. CVS allegedly compared their prescription rates to other providers in the same specialty and geographic region, the ages of the patients, and the number of patients paying with cash for the drugs.

After analyzing the results, CVS said the company’s stores and mail-order pharmacy will no longer dispense controlled substances for 36 providers who it said could not justify their prescribing habits, according to the Orlando Sentinel. CVS did not disclose the names or location of the physicians blacklisted this time around.

Click here to read the Orlando Sentinel article.

Second Time CVS Has Blacked Listed Specific Doctors.

In November 2011, at least 22 Central Florida doctors received an unsigned letter from CVS telling them that the company’s pharmacists would no longer fill prescriptions they write for painkillers and other powerful drugs. The letter was called a “blacklist” and was criticized as discriminatory. One Orlando doctor tried to fight back with legal action, claiming that CVS basically called him a criminal. To read more on the previous blacklist, click here to read my blog.

So far, we have not heard of any legal action pending against CVS from providers recently added to the blacklist.

DEA Previously Pulled Controlled Substance Licenses from Two Sanford, Florida, CVS Pharmacies.

As previously stated, the DEA has had its eyes on CVS for a while. You may remember that in September 2012, the DEA revoked the registrations (controlled substance licenses) from two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida. I previously wrote about this, click here to read that blog.

Who is Responsible for the Prescription Drug Epidemic?

The act of prescribing powerful, and sometimes deadly, addictive drugs inappropriately for a health care provider’s personal gain has grown. It’s argued that pharmacies have a role to play in the oversight of controlled substance prescriptions. Pharmacists, as well as physicians and all health care providers, have an ethical (and legal duty) to ensure that a prescription for a controlled substance is appropriate.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The Health Law Firm represents physicians, pharmacists, pharmacies, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies.
If you are aware of an investigation of you or your practice, or if you have been contacted by the DEA or DOH, contact an experienced health law attorney immediately.

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

Comments?

What do you think of CVS’ ban on filling controlled substance prescriptions from certain doctors? Do you think this will help with the national prescription drug abuse epidemic? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “CVS Cracks Down on Doctors with ‘Extreme Patters’ of Prescribing High-Risk Drugs.” Orlando Sentinel. (August 29, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-cvs-crackdown-doctors-20130829,0,5193527.story?dssReturn

Wohl, Jessica. “CVS Cuts Access to Opiod Pain-Killers for Suspect Doctors.” Reuters. (August 21, 2013). From: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/21/us-cvscaremark-painkillers-idUSBRE97K17120130821

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.

Nation Rx Drug Abuse Summit Held in Central Florida-Leaders Share Struggles and Triumphs in “War Against Prescription Drugs”

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

From April 2 through April 4, 2013, the country’s leading experts on the prescription drug epidemic met in Central Florida for the National Rx Drug Abuse Summit, according to the Orlando Sentinel. National leaders including the White House drug czar, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner and Florida’s Attorney General (AG) shared ongoing challenges and strides each department has made in its fight against prescription drugs.

Good News in the War Against Prescription Drugs.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) stated in its semi-annual report that oxycodone-related deaths statewide dropped between January and June of 2012, compared to the same period of time in 2011. In the first half of 2012, there were 759 oxycodone-related deaths in Florida. That number is down from 1,058 during the same time period a year before.

A look at the national numbers shows that the number of people abusing prescription drugs is down. According to the White House drug czar, seven 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. To read the article from the Orlando Sentinel, click here.

Summit Focused on Need for More State Prescriptions Drug Monitoring Programs.

During the summit leaders spoke of the need to help state prescription drug monitoring programs succeed.

Just in March 2013, three states made moves to tighten monitoring and prescribing of controlled substances. Legislators in California, Pennsylvania and Kentucky are contemplating new regulations regarding the use of prescription drug monitoring programs. What this means is that whatever state you may be in, you should be aware that lawmakers are implementing similar programs and laws in their governments. To learn more, click here.

Drug Monitoring Programs Can Be Used as a Prosecution Tool.

Health professionals should take note, these prescription drug monitoring programs can, and will be, used as a prosecution tool. Enforcement of drug laws and prescribing regulations has been ever increasing in recent years. The implementation of these databases and corresponding regulations are going to provide more tools for law enforcement and state medical boards to crack down on physicians. In order to avoid trouble it is crucial that you take time to review your state’s prescribing and record keeping laws with an experienced health care attorney.

From experience, we 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. Physicians and pharmacists should consider using whatever database is implemented in their respective states, or otherwise remaining vigilant to avoid being labeled an overprescriber.

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?

Does the state where you are located have a prescription drug monitoring program? What do you think of these programs? Are they necessary? 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

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.

Finding a Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO) Insurance Defense Lawyer

Patricia's Photos 013By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

We are sometimes told by the health professionals we represent especially pharmacists, licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs), advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), massage therapists and physical therapists that after they received a complaint regarding their license from the Florida Department of Health (DOH) they had difficulty finding an experienced attorney in Florida who would accept their professional liability insurance.  In this case, I am speaking specifically about Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO) Insurance.

Benefits of HPSO Insurance.

The professionals who are covered by HPSO Insurance have excellent insurance coverage.  HPSO Insurance provides professional liability coverage that protects in the event of a lawsuit or negligence claim.  But much more often the professional receives a notice of an investigation, a subpoena for a deposition in someone else’s case, a demand because of an allegation of sexual harassment or sexual impropriety, a complaint because of a breach of medical records confidentiality or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy complaint, or some other administrative type of action.

HPSO provides great coverage for these.  For example, HPSO currently reimburses up to $10,000 in legal fees and expenses just for representation of you at depositions.  HPSO currently reimburses up to $25,000 in legal fees and expenses for your defense in a DOH or Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) notice of investigation or complaint.  HPSO currently reimburses up to $25,000 in legal fees and expenses for your legal representation in defense of a complaint or investigation regarding breach of medical confidentiality.

If you are a pharmacist, own a pharmacy, are a massage therapist, own an assisted living facility (ALF), are a mental health counselor or a social worker, or you are one of the many other types of health care professionals who HPSO insures, it should be fairly easy to find experienced health lawyers to represent you, especially in Florida.

Our firm and our attorneys, including George F. Indest III, Michael L. Smith, Joanne Kenna, Carole C. Schriefer, Lance O. Leider, Christopher E. Brown and Danielle M. Murray, routinely represent licensed health care professionals, interns and students in all types of administrative investigations and hearings and in defending lawsuits and other actions that have been filed.  We also represent health facilities in license defense, survey complaints and administrative hearings.  We represent them throughout Florida, from Pensacola, to Jacksonville, to Key West.  We also occasionally represent them in other states, as well.  We accept HPSO Insurance assignments.

Free Legal Advice: Get Insurance Immediately.

It is very important for every health professional to carry insurance that covers any investigation, complaint or administrative hearing that might be filed or opened against your license.  You may think that you are covered for this by your employer, but you are not.  If your employer contradicts this, ask for a statement in writing that your employer will pay for your legal defense for any such matter arising during your employment.

What typically happens, especially in the case of a hospital employee, nursing home employee, pharmacy employee or corporate employee, is that the employer is the one who terminates the employee and then files a complaint with the DOH.  The DOH then opens an investigation against the health professional.  The employer is not going to pay your legal defense costs if the employer has reported you.

You may very well be out of work, out of money and face an investigation and complaint that could terminate your professional license and career.  You should not take this chance.  Insurance such as HPSO Insurance is inexpensive and reliable.  Buy it while you can afford it. After the actions have occurred, it is too late.

Find an Experience Health Law Attorney in the Event of an Investigation.

Also, you should immediately contact an experienced health law attorney if you are telephoned or visited by any investigator, or if you receive a letter advising you that an investigation has been opened regarding your care.  Call immediately for advice before you speak with an investigator or provide any documents or statements of any kind.

You cannot and should not seek “legal advice” on what to do from the investigator, from a DOH employee, from your professional board or from any attorney representing any of them.  They are not your friends.  They are on the side against you. You should definitely not take any advice from them.

Do Not Skimp on Insurance Coverage.

If you have good insurance, it will pay for your legal expenses from the very beginning, so use it.  However, beware of cheap insurance policies from professional associations that do not provide any coverage for disciplinary complaints and licensure investigations.  Always check to be sure this is covered.  Get it in writing.  With some companies you have to pay an extra premium to obtain this coverage.  With some insurers, they do not offer it, and you have to purchase a completely separate policy covering just this.  It is worth it!  Do it!

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

Our firm regularly represents pharmacists, massage therapists, mental health counselors, registered nurses, assisted living facilities, home health agencies, nurse practitioners, lab technicians, occupational therapists, physical therapists, social workers, physician assistants, psychologists and other health professionals in many different legal matters.

Services we provide include representation before your professional board, in DOH investigations, in administrative hearings, in civil litigation, in defense of malpractice claims, in professional licensing matters, in defense of allegations concerning HIPAA privacy violations and medical record breaches, in Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) actions, and in many other matters.

We routinely represent physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, and others in defending against malpractice claims, civil lawsuits, administrative complaints, peer review actions, DOH investigations, Medicare audits, Medicaid audits, and other matters. In cases in which the health care professional has professional liability insurance or general liability insurance which provides coverage for such matters, we will seek to obtain coverage by your insurance company and will attempt to have your legal fees and expenses covered by your insurance company.  If allowed, we will agree to take an assignment of your insurance policy proceeds in order to be able to submit our bills directly to your insurance company.

We also defend health professionals and health facilities in general litigation matters and business litigation matters.

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 have professional liability insurance? 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.

“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.

Sex, Drugs and Money Lands Avalon Park Pharmacist in Handcuffs

9 Indest-2008-6By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Sex, prescription drugs and money – sounds like the next big rock ‘n’ roll song, doesn’t it? According to a number of news sources, the owner of an Avalon Park-area pharmacist was allegedly knowingly filling phony prescriptions for painkillers. The pharmacist is also accused of exchanging sex for drugs with at least one woman, according to the Orlando Sentinel. This investigation was led by the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Both agencies simultaneously raided the pharmacy on November 29, 2012.

Avalon Park is a community it the greater Orlando area.
Filling Phony Prescriptions.

According to WFTV, the owner of the pharmacy and two employees sat handcuffed outside the pharmacy as federal drug agents reportedly removed boxes of evidence from the pharmacy during the raid. Agents then moved onto the pharmacist’s nearby home.

It’s believed another person was producing fake prescriptions and asking others to get them filled at the Avalon pharmacy and others around town. The people who fill the prescriptions are nicknamed “smurfs.” They are usually hired by a drug ring. They return the pills from the prescriptions they get filled, back to the ring. Click here to read what Papa Smurf has to say about his name being used in such a manner.

According to WFTV, 230 fraudulent prescriptions were produced and 33 were filled at the Avalon-area pharmacy.

Click here to watch WFTV’s report on this raid.
Pharmacist’s Alleged Relationship with Smurf.

A woman, who worked as a smurf, allegedly told federal agents she had sex with the pharmacist. Afterward, the pharmacist gave her cash and oxycodone, according to the Orlando Sentinel. However, we want to make it clear that those who break the law and get caught often point the finger at innocent people, trying to divert blame from themselves.

To read the article from the Orlando Sentinel, click here.
Pharmacist Facing Charges of Trafficking in Controlled Substance.

The pharmacist faces up to 32 counts of trafficking in controlled substance and one count of conspiracy to traffic. Federal agents believe the pharmacist is part of a larger drug ring.

On the Florida Department of Health (DOH) website his license is still listed as clear/active. To see his license status, click here.

Remember, all who are name or discussed in our blog are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Representing Pharmacists and Pharmacies.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to pharmacists and pharmacies in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI 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?

Tell us your thoughts on this story. Are federal drug agents fighting a losing battle? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
Sources:

Barrett, Steve. “Avalon Park Pharmacy Owner Accused of Filling Fake Oxycodone Prescriptions.” WFTV. (November 30, 2012). From: http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/dea-agents-raid-avalon-park-pharmacy/nTJbw/

Pauk, Amy. “Pharmacist Accused of Over-Dispensing Painkillers, Exchanging Pills for Sex.” Orlando Sentinel. (November 29, 2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-avalon-park-pharmacy-20121129,0,6040870.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.

Sanford CVS Pharmacies in Hot Water for Ignoring Red Flags

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

In September 2012, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) revoked the controlled substance licenses from two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida. Details into the investigation were made public on October 12, 2012, in a final order released by the DEA.

The order explains how the stores operated, whom they prescribed painkillers such as oxycodone to, and identified Central Florida’s top-prescribing doctors.

To read the final order from the DEA, click here.

I previously wrote about the two Sanford CVS stores losing their controlled substance licenses, click here to read that blog.|

Employee Admitted to Reserving Painkillers for “Real Pain Patients.”

The Final Order reveals testimonies from pharmacy personnel. In a press release from the DEA the pharmacist-in-charge at one of the Sanford stores told drug agents the stores would set a limit each morning on the number of oxycodone prescriptions they would fill based on the inventory. Once the limit was reached, the pharmacy would tell customers they were “out of stock,” even when they had inventory. The pharmacist told agents the reserved inventory was for their “real pain patients.”

Other Warning Signs.

Employees told drug agents that their customers would ask for oxycodone using street slang such as “the M’s” or “the blues.” Oxycodone was also allegedly dispensed frequently to customers who lived out of state, obtained prescriptions from South Florida doctors, and had the prescriptions filled in Seminole County.

Click here to read the press release from the DEA.

Walgreens is Feeling the Heat Too.

The Walgreens distribution center in Jupiter, Florida, is currently fighting its own war with the DEA. On October 17, 2012, the biggest pharmacy retailer in Florida filed a petition asking a federal judge to lift an immediate suspension order (ISO) banning the center from shipping controlled substances to its stores in Florida and on the East Coast. To read more on that story, click here.

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.

Comments?

What do you think of the DEA’s decision? As a pharmacist how to do you regulate prescriptions for painkillers? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “Rx for Danger: DEA Blasts CVS for Ignoring ‘Red Flags’ at Sanford Stores.” Orlando Sentinel. (October 28, 2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/health/os-cvs-dea-oxycodone-ban-20121028,0,5395839.story

Drug Enforcement Administration. “Holiday CVS Final Order Reveals Gross Negligence By Two CVS Pharmacies in Stanford, Florida.” DEA.gov. (October 15, 2012). Press Release From: http://www.justice.gov/dea/divisions/mia/2012/mia101512.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. 

“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.

Walgreens Files a Petition to Lift the Immediate Suspension Order

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

There’s a firefight brewing between Walgreens and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). On October 10, 2012, Walgreens filed a petition asking a federal judge to lift the Immediate Suspension Order (ISO) that bans its distribution center in Jupiter, Florida, from shipping controlled substances to its stores in Florida and on the East Coast.

Back on September 14, 2012, the DEA issued an ISO on the distribution center, calling it an “imminent danger” to the public. Click here to read a blog I previously wrote when the DEA issued the ISO.

Walgreens Claims the DEA Ignored Relevant Information.

In its petition, Walgreens claims the DEA ignored and “conspicuously omitted” recent and relevant information in its ISO. The pharmacy said it took voluntary steps designed to address concerns about the number of new prescriptions for controlled substances presented by pain clinic patients. Earlier this year the company also voluntarily stopped selling all Schedule II drugs, including OxyContin, at eight pharmacies that were of concern to the DEA and that were serviced by the Jupiter distribution center. Walgreens claims as a result of these efforts, the number of oxycodone pills and pain clinic prescriptions filled in recent months is an extremely small percent of the 2011 numbers, on which DEA relied upon to issue the ISO.

Walgreens is asking the federal appeals court to clear the ISO against the distribution center.

To see the Orlando Sentinel article, click here.

 

Numbers Released for Mean Nothing.

In an earlier blog I wrote that according to the DEA, six of Walgreens’ Florida pharmacies allegedly ordered more than a million oxycodone pills a year. That number might seem big at first, but after breaking it down, it’s actually not all that scary. You have to remember that Walgreens is the biggest pharmacy retailer in Florida.

For example, if a doctor issues a pain management patient a prescription for three (3) pills a day, that is approximately 90 pills per month or 1,080 pills per year. If Walgreens has only 1,000 patients with such a prescription in a year throughout the entire state of Florida, that is in excess of one million (1,000,000) pills per year. I would guess that many single Walgreens retail stores have more than 1,000 customers per day, much less all Walgreens stores throughout Florida.

My point is that such statistics are meaningless out of context and are only meant to sound huge if one doesn’t stop and think about it.

Click here to see the press release from the DEA with the number of oxycodone pills purchased by store.

 

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Comments?

What do you think of the appeal? Should the DEA have taken this action against Walgreens? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

 

Source:

Pavul, Amy. “Walgreens Fights Back Against DEA, Wants Ban at Florida Distribution Center Lifted.” Orlando Sentinel. (October 11, 2012). From: ttp://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-walgreens-dea-oxycodone-20121011,0,1860346.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. He does not own stock in Walgreens or any other pharmacy.

 

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