By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M. Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
At several recent Florida Board meetings, after hearings at which disciplinary cases were considered by the Board, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents approached the health professional. Even in instances where the pharmacist was represented by an attorney and the attorney was there, the DEA agents confronted the professional involved.
What Were the DEA Agents Trying to Do?
In the cases where The Health Law Firm’s attorneys were there representing clients, the professional received some type of discipline on his or her license. Some of these were Settlement Agreements. The DEA Agent approached the professional and urged the professional to sign a voluntary relinquishment of DEA registration.
It seems that this is happening to professionals where there is some type of serious or long-term discipline is being taken against their licenses, such as long-term probation, suspension or revocation. Also, if the charges against the health professional involved, drugs, over-prescribing, abuse of narcotics, operation of a “pill mill,” selling or illegally dispensing or prescribing narcotics, drug diversion or abuse, being impaired from use of drugs, and other similar misconduct. These are often grounds for the revocation, suspension or revocation of the DEA number.
This action by DEA agents has occurred at Board of Medicine meetings and hearings, Board of Osteopathic Medicine meetings and hearings, Board of Dentistry meetings and hearing and Board of Pharmacy meetings and hearings. If you are a professional who has a DEA registration and number, you are, apparently, fair game.
Don’t Be Surprised; Be Prepared and Don’t Make a Rash Decision.
It is unusual to see federal agents of this type “cruising” state professional board meetings like we have seen lately. But, it seems to make sense, from the DEA’s point of view. If you can take several minutes and convince, surprise or intimidate a health professional into relinquishing his or her DEA registration voluntarily, then you may save the government hundreds of hours of time and thousands of dollars in expenses in having to investigate and have a separate administrative hearing (which the health professional may win), if he or she voluntarily relinquishes the DEA registration.
Immediately consult with an experienced health law attorney who has dealt with the DEA before.
Remember Your Rights; Yes, You Have Rights!
Yes, you do have rights, Constitutional rights. Use them! That is what they are there for.
You have the right to consult with counsel before making a decision. Don’t believe it if a DEA agents tells you that you don’t.
You have the right not to sign any forms or make any statements. Don’t sign anything. Don’t make any statements except for getting the agent’s card and telling them you will have your attorney contact them.
You have the right to take time to consider the matter and consult with others. You do not have to make a decision right away.
The Consequences of Voluntary Relinquishment are Serious and Long-Lasting.
Your voluntary relinquishment are serious and long lasting. It will be treated the same as a revocation of your DEA number. We have consulted with physicians and pharmacists who have never been able to get it back after they relinquished it.
You will probably be terminated from any health insurance panels you are on if this happens.
You will probably have action taken against your clinical privileges if you have clinical privileges at any hospital, nursing home or ambulatory surgical center (ASC).
You may be terminated from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.
There are many other consequences that may result.
Therefore, you and your attorney should be aware that this may happen and you and your attorney should be prepared if it does happen.
For more tips on how to prepare, click here to read my prior blog.
Don’t Wait Too Late; Consult with an Experienced Health Law Attorney Early.
Do not wait until action has been taken against you to consult with an experienced attorney in these matters. Few cases are won on appeal. It is much easier to win your case when there is proper time to prepare and you have requested a formal hearing so that you may actually dispute the facts being alleged against you.
The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing pharmacists, pharmacies and pharmacy technicians in investigations and at Board of Pharmacy hearings. Call now or visit our website 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.
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