Today’s DOJ and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions are investigating and prosecuting physicians and pharmacies over-prescribing opioids using surprise federal takedowns in a way that makes the 1980s “war on drugs” look like a light prequel.
Federal prosecutors assigned to “opioid hot spot districts” for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting opioid-related health care fraud. They are primarily concerned with targeting suspect physicians and pharmacies that prescribe and distribute a disproportionate number of opioids compared to their peers.
The Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit
Jeff Sessions is excited about the new data analytics program, the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, an effective data analysis tool used to identify and prosecute egregious opioid prescriptions and distributions part and parcel to our nationwide opioid epidemic.
Sessions stated that that data, can tell us important information about prescription opioids – like who is prescribing the most drugs, who is dispensing the most drugs, and whose patients are dying of overdoses.[i]”
When federal and state officers engage in takedowns, they usually have search warrants, have long been investigating and watching their targets and simply show up at your physician office or pharmacy with guns drawn and badges displayed – without any notice to you. They enjoy the element of surprise and use it to their advantage. The DOJ likes to organize nationwide takedown operations, hitting multiple targets and various states at the same time so nobody can shuffle and cover their bad acts thinking the law might be on the way.
The officers and agents may tell you they suspect you violated DEA laws and regulations and request you promptly surrender your DEA controlled substance registration and answer their questions.
The best defense is being prepared to assert your legal rights. Consider noting the following bullet points and training your entire staff on what to do if you are targeted in a takedown:
- Politely but firmly assert your right to consult your attorney before answering any questions or surrendering your DEA controlled substance registration – make sure you have a licensing and defense attorney ahead of time, so you know who to contact on short notice. Note that if officers believe you have committed crimes you could be immediately arrested and prosecuted;
- If you surrender your DEA registration at their request, you could jeopardize your current and future practice. Without your DEA privileges you cannot operate or practice. You should consult your healthcare defense attorney regarding same;
- Be respectful of the agents and officers simply doing their job and ask for their business cards and contact information so that you may provide that to your attorney who will contact them;
- Consult with your healthcare attorney before making any decisions that could affect your practice with officers standing in your lobby. Seasoned law enforcement officers appreciate that a physician or pharmacist with good credentials and candor will likely decline to participate in their investigation and refer them to their attorneys;
- Anything you say can and will be used against you if you are arrested and prosecuted. It is advisable to remain calm and treat an encounter with federal and state agents as you would an arrest subject to a traffic stop. Let the law do its job and get your lawyer on board.
About us: Michael V. Favia & Associates, P.C. is a health law and litigation firm in Chicago representing individuals, healthcare professionals and organizations with civil legal matters as well as professional licensing and regulation.
Michael V. Favia & Associates is available at (773) 631-4580. Please visit www.favialawfirm.com and feel free to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” the firm on Twitter. You can also review endorsements and recommendations for Michael V. Favia on his Avvo.com profile and on LinkedIn.
[i] Lexology, DOJ Targets Prescribers of Opioids for Prosecution, Binham Greenebaum Doll LLP blog contributor, Mar. 23, 2018.