Appeals Court Affirms Discipline for Doctor Who Sold Prescriptions at Bar

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

On December 15, 2017, a physician who sold painkiller prescriptions to patients at a bar and restaurant, had his two-year probation for unprofessional conduct upheld by a Maryland appeals court. The court upheld the decision after it found that the evidence supported the state board’s disciplinary decision.

Unprofessional Conduct Alleged.

The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the ruling by the Maryland State Board of Physicians (Board) to reprimand Dr. Walter Kozachuk and place him on probation for a minimum of two years for unprofessional conduct in the practice of medicine. The Board claimed he would routinely meet with patients at a restaurant and bar and give them prescriptions for painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs in exchange for $100 per prescription. Additionally, on at least one occasion, he allegedly gave a patient a prescription in a parking lot.

The appeals court determined that there was substantial evidence supporting the board’s determination that the doctor’s sale of prescriptions in a non-office setting constituted unprofessional conduct. To read the court’s opinion in full, click here.

How You Can Avoid Legal Issues.

As a physician, you should be proactive in avoiding drug seeking patients and illicit clinic owners or coworkers. With the power of prescribing comes a great responsibility. Don’t find yourself behind bars when it can all be prevented. Here are some tips to learn from the recent pain management clinic raids.

1.    Avoid working for practices or clinics that have reputations as pill mills.

2.    Most physicians subject of investigations, such as the one written about here, are typically the sole physician in the clinic. Join a team setting in a group practice with other full-time physicians.

3.    Document everything. Make sure all medical records meet the requirements of state and federal laws. Verify all patients’ identities and be sensitive to possible false identifications.

4.    Make sure you know about everything going on in your office. Maintain a loyal and trustworthy staff who will report irregular behavior to you as physician. Have a zero tolerance for staff violations.

5.    Do NOT ever allow a lay person or non-physician to control your office. Do not give anyone like this sole access to medical records, billings, bank accounts or scheduling. Make sure that you are the one in control of these, that you have the passwords and access numbers, and that your constantly review these. You will be held accountable for this so you should remain in control.

To read more physician tips on protecting yourself and your license, 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, 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.  We represent physicians in complaints against their medical licenses.  We also handle appeals of board of medicine cases.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Source:

Kang, Peter. “Md. Court Affirms Discipline For Doc Who Sold Scrips At Bar.” Law360. (December 15, 2017). Web.

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 and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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Crackdown in the Supply of Prescription Medications Drive Floridians to Heroin

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

For the past three years, Florida lawmakers and officials have waged war against prescription drug abuse. At the peak of the pill abuse epidemic, seven people a day reportedly died of a prescription drug overdose in Florida. As the Sunshine State became known as painkiller capital of America, officials worked quickly to enact legislation against prescription drugs, develop and monitor the statewide prescription drug monitoring database, and crackdown on prescription drug abusers and pill mills. Flash forward to summer 2013, prescription pills are harder to come by and more expensive, therefore making them less appealing to addicts. However, that does not mean the war is over. Now addicts are finding their replacement fix in heroin, according to the Miami Herald.

Click here to read the entire article from The Miami Herald.

Oxycodone-Related Deaths Down, While Heroin Numbers Rise in Florida.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s (FDLE) semi-annual report, oxycodone-related deaths dropped statewide between January and June of 2012, compared to the same period of time in 2011. I previously wrote a blog on the decline of oxycodone-related deaths in Florida. To read that blog, click here.

Now that oxycodone-related deaths are down, heroin numbers are on the rise. According to the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, from July 2010 to June 2011, there were 45 heroin-related deaths statewide. From July 2011 to June 2012, the number jumped to 77 heroin-related deaths. The FDLE is seeing the same trend. In the first three months of 2013, heroin-related charges totaled 948 and in the same three months in 2012, that number was 772.

Florida Officials Try to Fight Heroin.

Lawmakers took dramatic actions to reduce the supply of prescription drugs on the streets. According to the Miami Herald, lawmakers are now trying to fight heroin before it takes off.

Broward County’s substance abuse commission and the Sanford-Brown Institute hosted a workshop to share the news about the growing heroin trend. The commission’s board of governors has formed a task force to put together an anti-heroin campaign. The group is also publicizing the 911 Good Samaritan Act. This Act protects callers from prosecution for possessing or ingesting low-level controlled substances under some circumstances.

The Ultimate Results of Such Crackdowns.

The war on prescription drug abuse took away the supply, but not the demand. Since the crackdown we have seen the largest legitimate pharmacy chains in the state and nation not allowed to fill prescriptions for painkillers. Click here to read a blog on a Walgreens distribution center that was served with an immediate suspension order from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). To read a blog on the DEA pulling the controlled substance licenses from two Central Florida CVS pharmacies.

This has left some patients in dire straits. They are suffering because they cannot locate a pharmacy to fill their legitimate pain medicine prescriptions. These include injured military veterans, patients who are 100% disabled and on disability or social security, patients injured in automobile accidents and job-related accidents (whose medications are paid for by insurance, if they can find a pharmacy to fill it) and others with real chronic pain issues.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents 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.

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 about the increase in heroin use? Is one drug more dangerous than another? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Burch, Audra. “As Pill Mills Fade Away, Heroin Fills the Void.” The Miami Herald. (May 11, 2013). From: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/05/11/3392908/as-prescription-pills-fade-heroin.html

Gillen, Michele. “Dangerous Drug Creating New Addicts.” WBFS. (May 22, 2013). From: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2013/05/22/dangerous-drug-creating-new-addicts/

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.