Former Pharmaceutical Sales Rep to Serve 70 Months in Prison for Part in $13M Oxycodone Scheme

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 March 24, 2017, a federal judge in the U.S. Southern District of Florida in Miami sentenced a former pharmaceutical salesman to nearly six years in prison for his part in a $13 million money laundering scheme. The scheme involved more than two million oxycodone pills, which the salesperson allegedly helped supply to pain clinics by falsely telling pharmaceutical wholesalers that the clinics weren’t “pill mills.”

U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom, sentenced Jonathan Sendor to 70 months in prison after he pled guilty in January 2017 to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Sendor was essentially working as a broker between wholesale pharmaceutical suppliers and pain clinics attempting to procure a supply of oxycodone for patients of pill mills.
The Scheme.

According to prosecutors, Sendor and two co-conspirators operated six pain clinics in Florida between March 2010 and June 2011. The co-conspirators operated the clinics to ensure that the maximum amount of oxycodone would be prescribed without a legitimate medical need, and purely for the sake of profit. The six clinics dispensed and distributed more than two million oxycodone pills before they were caught and shut down in 2011. The clinics made roughly $13.5 million from the unlawful prescriptions, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sendor helped the pain clinics receive a steady supply of the drug through the wholesalers, prosecutors alleged. For his part in the scheme, Sendor allegedly created multiple companies, building on the connections he had formed as a pharmaceutical salesman. He then proceeded to act as a “quasi-broker” between the doctors of the pain clinics needing the oxycodone and the wholesalers distributing the drug.

Sendor was able to mislead wholesale pharmaceutical companies and told them that he would function as an inspector. It is alleged that he conducted fake inspection visits to the pain clinics and required the clinics’ doctors to complete a survey. When the surveys were completed, he misrepresented the results and advised the doctors, pain clinic managers, owners and other co-conspirators to lie on the survey form.

In 2010, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi helped pass legislation banning doctors from dispensing narcotic medications out of their office. After the law changed, Sendor then assisted in the opening of two pharmacies – one in Boca Raton and another in Orlando, Florida. Patients of the six pain clinics were then directed to these pharmacies for oxycodone.

To read the DOJ’s press release in full, click here.

To learn more about the pill mill problem in Florida, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in DEA Cases.

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, durable medical equipment suppliers (DME), medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider. We defend pain management physicians, clinics and pharmacists in state license investigations, in administrative hearings, and in DEA actions. The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, preparing contracts, helping employers and employees enforce contracts, advice on setting aside or voiding contracts, litigation of contracts (in start or federal court), business transactions, professional license defense, opinion letters, representation in investigations, fair hearing defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, litigation of restrictive covenant (covenants not to compete), Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings.

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

Sources:

Lincoff, Nina. “South Florida pain clinics tied up in $13M money laundering conspiracy.” South Florida Business Journal. (January 17, 2017). Web.

Posses, Shayna. “Sales Rep To Serve 70 Months For $13M Oxycodone Scheme.” Law360. (March 24, 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. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Legal representation for prescription drug abuse, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cases, legal representation for DEA investigations, Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, legal representation for schemes to over-prescribe narcotics, legal representation for schemes to traffic narcotics, pill mill defense attorney, legal representation for doctor shopping, legal representation for pill mills, legal representation for pharmacists, legal representation for pharmacies pharmacy defense attorney, pharmacist defense attorney, administrative hearing attorney, DEA defense attorney, Department of Health investigations, legal representation for DOH investigations, DOH investigation defense attorney, prescription drug crackdown, Florida prescription drug abuse, prescription drug trafficking, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys

“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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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.

Pharmacies May be Liable for Filling Valid Prescriptions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suggestions for Compliance.

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

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

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

Comments?

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

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA, DOH and FDA investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

New Regulations for Pain Management Clinics in Seminole County Coming

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

Seminole County, Florida, is the latest county to adopt tightened regulations for pain management clinics. On November 13, 2012, County Commissioners unanimously voted to adopt the ordinance enacting Chapter 186 of the Seminole County Code to establish regulations regarding pain management clinics.

Click here to read the entire Seminole County Ordinance.

County Commissioners hope these new regulations will aid law enforcement in fighting illegal pill mill operations in Florida.

Regulations In Place to Cut Down on Overprescribing.

The ordinance requires clinics to get a license, produce monthly reports on how many prescriptions are issued for controlled substances and report patient information, such as a patient’s address. This only applies to practices where doctors issue prescriptions for painkillers such as oxycodone to more than 20 patients a day. It does not pertain to hospitals and other major medical facilities.

Anyone violating the regulations can be charged with a misdemeanor and lose his or her business license.

Specialists Ready to Move Out of The Sunshine State.

The Orlando Sentinel interviewed a Boca Raton doctor who specializes in pain management. The doctor reportedly believes the regulations are helping to curb drug overdoses, but stated the regulations also limit legitimate board-certified medical specialists. He believes many Florida doctors are ready to move out of the Sunshine State and go to another state with fewer regulations.

To read the Orlando Sentinel article, click here.

Many Areas Around Central Florida are Adopting Similar Ordinances.

At the end of October 2012, Osceola County Commissioners voted to adopt a similar ordinance. I wrote previously wrote about that story, click here to read that blog.

In addition to Osceola County, Winter Park, Sanford, Oviedo and Maitland have opted to enact ordinances that regulate pain management clinics’ location and operation.

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?

As a healthcare professional, what do you think of this ordinance? Have you thought about leaving Florida due to the new regulations? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Comas, Martin. “Seminole Tightens Regulations for Pain Management Clinics.” Orlando Sentinel. (November 13, 2012). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/seminole/os-pain-management-clinics-seminole-20121112,0,7626282.story

Seminole County Government. “Ordinance Chapter 186.” Seminole County Government. (November 13, 2012). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/Pain%20Management%20Ordinance.pdf

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.