One of the many reasons that people become medical doctors is to alleviate the suffering of others. Physicians often find themselves in a difficult scenario if they have a patient in their care who struggles with chronic pain. Back injuries, cancer and numerous other health issues can leave people struggling with debilitating levels of pain that cannot be alleviated safely and effectively.
Yet, a lack of options for chronic pain is relatively rare nowadays, as it has never been more feasible for a medical professional to help someone control severe, chronic pain. Synthetic opioids have reduced market pressure on the supply of pain-relieving medication. However, they have also paved the way for the addiction and overdose crisis currently claiming lives across Pennsylvania and the U.S. as a whole.
Unfortunately, doctors who want to do what is compassionate for their patients could find themselves facing criminal prosecution for their efforts under specific circumstances.
Prosecution is possible even if the DEA doesn’t charge someone
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has the challenging responsibility of enforcing controlled substance laws and monitoring professional compliance with these crucial public safety rules. When there are questions about a doctor’s prescribing habits, the DEA will conduct a review.
In some cases, the DEA may then pursue charges against a medical professional or practice because they distribute high morphine milligram equivalents (MME) to their patients. In other words, they prescribe a large number of opioids to a patient or a high dosage of an opioid medication.
Even when the DEA determines that a physician did not violate the rules for dispensing controlled substances, the United States Attorney’s office could still potentially choose to prosecute. They can bring charges over administrative record-keeping violations as a means of shutting down the practices and doctors that practice compassionate pain management for the sake of their patients.
For example, a physician in Pennsylvania near Levittown agreed to pay almost $490,000 over record-keeping violations, such as a failure to conduct inventory and detailed records for each dispensation of medication. These high stakes and high-cost claims can potentially force a practice to close down or change how it serves its patients, thereby drastically reducing who the doctor can treat.
Regulatory compliance is key to success
Medical professionals should not have to put concern for their financial solvency ahead of the well-being of their patients. However, any physician that frequently prescribes opioid medication will need to monitor their practice carefully to avoid minor violations.
Tracking law enforcement issues adjacent to the medical industry and seeking legal guidance when doctors have questions can help them to avoid missteps that could lead to drug charges and/or major expenses.