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.

KeyWords: prescription drug monitoring program, PDMP, Florida prescription drug monitoring program, Electronic-Florida Online Reporting Controlled Substance Evaluation, E-FORCSE, E-FORCSE data, prescription database, physician, doctor, pharmacist, dentist, health care professional, health care provider, health care practitioner, Florida Legislature, prescriber, cases against licensed health care professionals, substandard performance, falling below the standard of care, professional negligence, criminal investigation, criminal investigation of a physician, prosecution of health care professional, prosecution of physician, compliant investigation, license investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA, DEA investigation, administrative complain, charge sheet or indictment, defense attorney, defense lawyer, Florida defense attorney, Florida defense lawyer, Florida Department of Health, DOH, doctor shopping, controlled substance, Attorney General, AG, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), dispensing controlled substances, reporting to E-FORCSE, who can access E-FORCSE, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, HIPAA, E-FORCSE HIPAA compliant, health law firm, 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.

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Central Florida Doctor’s Home and Offices Raided Over Alleged Improper Prescribing Practices

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

In a joint operation, law enforcement officials raided the home and two offices of a Central Florida physician on November 8, 2013, according to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office alleges that the doctor is being investigated for improper prescribing practices. According to the press release, this is not the first time the physician has been under investigation.

The raid was a collective effort between the Osceola County Investigative Bureau (OCIB), Florida Department of Health (DOH), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), and the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI).

Physician Not Arrested After Raid.

On November 8, 2013, law enforcement agents searched the physician’s home and his offices in Kissimmee, Florida and Orlando, Florida. The Florida DOH also issued an emergency order restricting the doctor’s privilege to prescribe narcotics. The physician was not arrested.

The physician was allegedly the target of two separate Florida DOH complaints in June 2013. Both complaints alleged the physician wrote prescriptions for painkillers to patients who did not have a medical need for the drugs. Click here to read the two previous complaints.

Doctor Previously Blacklisted by CVS.

According to an Orlando Sentinel article, this physician was previously placed on a CVS document referred to as the “blacklist.” This list identifies Central Florida’s top physicians prescribing oxycodone. When the list was released, the pharmacy chain notified the physicians that CVS pharmacists would no longer fill their patients’ prescriptions. This blacklist was an effort by CVS to step up internal efforts to combat the nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic. So far, CVS has released two blacklists, one was released in November 2011, and the second list was released in August 2013. You can read more about the two lists on our blog. Click here for part one, and click here for part two.

To read the Orlando Sentinel article, click here.

Florida Losing War on Prescription Drug Abuse.

Despite the aggressive “war on prescription drugs” the Sunshine State reportedly ranks eleventh highest nationally in drug overdose deaths.

I have represented a number of physicians who have been accused of “overprescribing.” Some of these were criminal investigations by local law enforcement authorities, such as a county sheriff’s office. Some were investigations by the DEA. Some were investigations by the state licensing agency such as the Florida DOH. To read a previous blog, “Legal Tips for Physicians to Manage Pain Patients,” click here.

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, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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

Comments?

Do you think Florida’s war on prescription drug abuse is working? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Lizasuain, Twis. “Dr. Ibem Borges Investigated for Over Prescribing Drugs.” Osceola County Sheriff’s Public and Medica Relations. (November 8, 2013).

Pavuk, Amy. “Agents Raid Home, Offices of Central Florida Physician Suspected of Improper Prescribing Practices.” Orlando Sentinel. (November 8, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-doctor-ibem-borges-raid-20131108,0,735835.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.

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.

Two Orlando-Area Pharmacists Arrested on Charges of Allegedly Trafficking Drugs

6 Indest-2008-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Two Orlando-area pharmacists were arrested on June 4, 2013, allegedly in connection to trafficking oxycodone, according to a number of local media sources. An Orlando Sentinel article states that the pharmacists are also co-owners of an Orlando pharmacy that was raided by the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation (MBI).

This is the fourth pharmacy in the Orlando area in which a pharmacist has been arrested as a result of an MBI investigation into alleged forgery and drug trafficking operations, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

I want to point out that these are just allegations made against the pharmacists at this point in time and nothing has been proven by the state.

Pharmacists Allegedly Filling Fake Prescriptions for Drug Traffickers.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, MBI agents said the pharmacists had been under investigation since 2011. They are accused of accepting fraudulent forged prescriptions from drug-trafficking ringleaders. The drug traffickers would allegedly print off hundreds of fake prescriptions for pain medications, which were then taken to be filled at pharmacies around Central Florida.

To read the entire Orlando Sentinel article, click here.

Prescriptions Allegedly Full of Red Flags.

According to a WESH-TV report, the arrests were based on evidence of illegally selling pain medications to a local drug trafficking organization under circumstances in which there could be no reasonable good faith belief of a medical necessity. After reviewing the case, a Florida Department of Health (DOH) expert pharmacist said there were nine red flags that should have indicated that the prescriptions filled by the two arrested pharmacists were forged.

Click here to watch a report on the arrests from WESH-TV.

The Result of Crackdowns on Florida Pill Mills.

According to the director of Orange County’s Office for a Drug Free Community, the number of pill mills in Orange County, Florida, has dropped from 60 in 2010, to 23 clinics in June 2013. The number of oxycodone-related deaths are down in Florida as well. Click here to read a blog on that. However, with prescription pills harder to come by and more expensive, addicts are finding their replacement fix in heroin. To read a blog on the fight against heroin in Florida, 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 these pharmacy raids around Central Florida? As a pharmacist, what safeguards do you have in place so you do not fall under investigation? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “Agents Raid South Orange Pharmacy, Arrest Pair.” Orlando Sentinel. (June 4, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-jr-pharmacy-raid-arrests-20130604,0,2706542.story

McDaniel, Dave. “Pharmacists Arrested on Trafficking Charges.” WESH TV. (June 4, 2013). From: http://www.wesh.com/news/central-florida/orange-county/pharmacists-arrested-on-trafficking-charges/-/12978032/20414548/-/13bxurx/-/index.html

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“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.

Pharmacists: Beware of Scammers that Call and Claim to be DEA Agents

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

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is warning pharmacists to be aware of a prescription drug scam. This telephone scheme is extorting money from people all over the country. On November 28, 2012, the DEA released a press release explaining the details of the scam.

Con Artists Claim to Be DEA Agents and Request Money Over the Phone.

The scam starts with criminals posing as DEA agents calling victims by telephone. Frequently the victims will have recently purchased prescription drugs over the internet or by phone. The imposters tell the victims that purchasing the drugs in that manner is illegal, and that they must pay a fine. If the victims refuse to send money, the phony DEA agents threaten to arrest the victims or search their property. Some of the victims have also reported unauthorized use of their credit cards after purchasing the prescription drugs.

Click here to read more on this scam from a DEA press release.

The DEA wants to remind pharmacists that no DEA agent will ever contact you by telephone. They might show up at your house early in the morning or while you are eating dinner, however. Also, agents never request money or any other form of payment.

Isn’t it Illegal to Buy Prescription Drugs Over the Internet or By Phone?

Many times it may be illegal to purchase controlled drugs by phone or over the internet. That’s why you should go to Canada to do it. There are direct flights from Orlando. However, some pharmacies that meet stringent requirements and are registered by the DEA are allowed to sell drugs over the internet or by phone. So don’t be fooled by this telephone scam.

How Does Your Information Get Into the Hands of Criminals?

The scammers are counting on the fact that if you have done this, you, as a pharmacist, will get scared and believe their accusations. Many people have no idea whether such conduct is legal or illegal. These imposters are banking on your ignorance and fear of losing your license to practice. They are also banking on the fact you won’t report this to the real police.

Where do they get this information? Chances are, they are just “cold-calling” people. There are bound to be a certain number of people they reach who have done this. However, if they seem to have your personal information (or credit card number) report this to the police right away. Be sure to obtain a written police report. Also, you should file a HIPAA Privacy Complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to begin an investigation if you believe your personal information has been stolen by or given to someone else to use.

Pain Patients Turn to Alternative Means to Get the Drugs They Need.

It is no surprise that the DEA, along with other law enforcement agencies, has stepped up its efforts to cut down on overprescribing. To see examples of what I am talking about read my past blogs: Walgreens fights the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) immediate suspension order and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) pulls controlled substance licenses from two Sanford, Florida, CVS pharmacies.

If the largest, legitimate pharmacy chains in the state and nation are not allowed to fill these prescriptions, where will chronic-pain patients turn? Are these actions driving our citizens into the hands of shady pharmacies that have fewer safeguards and less accountability, such as online pharmacies? Are these actions driving our citizens to seek out illegal drug dealers and turn to illegal drugs to cope with their legitimate medical problems? That is just one opinion. Tell us yours below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Pharmacists.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to pharmacists 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?

As a pharmacist, have you been contacted by these phony DEA agents? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “DEA Warns of Prescription-Drug Scam.” Orlando Sentinel. (November 29,2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-dea-warns-scam-internet-20121128,0,5800536.story

Drug Enforcement Administration. “DEA Scam Alert – Extortion Scheme.” DEA. (November 28, 2012). From: http://www.justice.gov/dea/divisions/mia/2012/mia112812a.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. http://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.

The 25 Biggest Mistakes Pharmacists Make After Being Notified of a Department of Health Complaint

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

The investigation of a complaint which could lead to the revocation of a pharmacist’s license to practice and the assessment of tens of thousands of dollars in fines, usually starts with a simple letter from the Department of Health (DOH). This is a very serious legal matter and it should be treated as such by the pharmacist who receives it. Yet, in many cases, attorneys are consulted by pharmacists after the entire investigation is over, and they have attempted to represent themselves throughout the case. Often, the mistakes that have been made severely compromise an attorney’s ability to achieve a favorable result for the pharmacist.

These are the 25 biggest mistakes we see in the pharmacy cases we are called upon to defend after a DOH investigation has been initiated:

1.  Failing to keep a current, valid address on file with the DOH (as required by law), which may seriously delay the receipt of the Uniform Complaint (notice of investigation), letters, and other important correspondence related to the investigation.

2.  Contacting the DOH investigator and providing him/her an oral statement or oral interview. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

3.  Making a written statement in response to the “invitation” extended by the DOH investigator to do so. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

4.  Failing to carefully review the complaint to make sure it has been sent to the correct pharmacist. (Note: Check name and license number).

5.  Failing to ascertain whether or not the investigation is on the “Fast Track” which may then result in an emergency suspension order (ESO) suspending the pharmacist’s license until all proceedings are concluded. (Note: This will usually be the case if there are allegations regarding drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual contact with a patient, mental health issues, or failure to comply with PRN instructions.)

6.  Providing a copy of the pharmacist’s curriculum vitae (CV) or resume to the investigator because the investigator requested them to do so. (Note: There is no legal requirement to do this.)

7.Believing that if they “just explain it,” the investigation will be closed and the case dropped.

8.  Failing to submit a timely objection to a DOH subpoena when there are valid grounds to do so.

9.  Failing to forward a complete copy of the patient medical record when subpoenaed by the DOH investigator as part of the investigation, when no objection is going to be filed.

10.  Delegating the task of providing a complete copy of the patient medical record to office staff, resulting in an incomplete or partial copy being provided.

11.  Failing to keep an exact copy of any medical records, documents, letters or statements provided to the investigator.

12.  Believing that the investigator has knowledge or experience in medical procedures or health care matters or procedures being investigated.

13.  Believing that the investigator is merely attempting to ascertain the truth of the matter and this will result in the matter being dismissed.

14.  Failing to check to see if their medical malpractice insurance carrier will pay the legal fees to defend them in this investigation.

15.  Talking to DOH investigators, staff or attorneys, in the mistaken belief that they are capable of doing so without providing information that can and will be used against them.

16.  Believing that because they haven’t heard anything for six months or more the matter has “gone away.” The matter does not ever just go away.

17.  Failing to submit a written request to the investigator at the beginning of the investigation for a copy of the complete investigation report and file and then following up with additional requests until it is received.

18.  Failing to wisely use the time while the investigation is proceeding to interview witnesses, obtain witness statements, conduct research, obtain experts, and perform other tasks that may assist defending the case.

19.  Failing to exercise the right of submitting documents, statements, and expert opinions to rebut the findings made in the investigation report before the case is submitted to the Probable Cause Panel of your licensing board for a decision.

20.  Taking legal advice from their colleagues regarding what they should do (or not do) in defending themselves in the investigation.

21.  Retaining “consultants” or other non-lawyer personnel to represent them.

22.  Believing that the case is indefensible so there is no reason to even try to have it dismissed by the Probable Cause Panel.

23.  Attempting to defend themselves.

24.  Believing that because they know someone with the Department of Health or a state legislator, that influence can be exerted to have the case dismissed.

25.  Failing to immediately retain the services of a health care attorney who is experienced in such matters to represent them, to communicate with the DOH investigator for them, and to prepare and submit materials to the Probable Cause Panel.

Bonus Point: 26. Communicating with the Department of Health about the pending case.

Not every case will require submission of materials to the Probable Cause Panel after the investigation is received and reviewed. There will be a few where the allegations made are not “legally sufficient” and do not constitute an offense for which the pharmacist may be disciplined.

In other cases, an experienced health care attorney may be successful in obtaining a commitment from the DOH attorney to recommend a dismissal to the Probable Cause Panel. In other cases (usually the most serious ones), for tactical reasons, the experienced health care attorney may recommend that you waive your right to have the case submitted to the Probable Cause Panel and that you proceed directly to an administrative hearing. The key to a successful outcome in all of these cases is to obtain the assistance of a health care lawyer who is experienced in appearing before the Board of Pharmacy in such cases and does so on a regular basis.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health Investigations of Pharmacists.

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.

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.

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.