DEA Drug Diversion Reporting
Drug diversion is the illegal distribution/abuse of prescription drugs, or using them in a manner that wasn’t intended by the prescriber. If drugs are deflected from medical sources into the illegal market, this is a form of drug diversion. The diversion of drugs can occur at any point drugs are distributed from the manufacturer to the wholesale distributor, to pharmacies, or to the patient. In addition, members of the medical profession can also be involved in the process of diverting drugs.
The government is taking drug diversion seriously, because it often results in drug addiction, overdoses, drug related ER visits, and even death. There a few common types of drug diversion, which the DEA most frequently investigates.
Common Types of Drug Diversion
Selling Prescription drugs: The DEA regularly investigates patients and individuals are who are selling prescription drugs, which are obtained legally.
Doctor Shopping: The DEA regularly looks at individuals who are soliciting multiple doctors, under a variety of false pretenses, in order to get prescriptions for controlled medication.
Illegal Internet Pharmacies: The DEA regularly investigates rogue online pharmacies, that pretend that pretend they are legitimate. These pharmacies often try to sell controlled substances to individuals, without prescriptions. They evade state licensing authorities, by operating across international borders.
Drug theft: Robberies are a frequent source of drug diversion in the prescription drug supply chain. Drug theft can occur at any step of the supply chain, ranging from a manufacturer, to a pharmacy, to a patient.
Prescription pad theft: Printing and stealing prescription pads is another popular method of drug diversion.
Illicit Prescribing: The DEA looks for this type of behavior when it examines providers. If the DEA sees unnecessary prescriptions, or large quantity prescribing of tablets/capsules, then it’ll investigate the provider for running a pill mill.
Ways to prevent drug diversion
Below are some precautions prescribers can take to avoid a potential DEA investigation.
- Exercise caution when patients use/request a combination of layered drugs for additional effects.
- Document heavily when you choose to prescribe narcotics. Write information about the patient to support your prescription. If you choose not to, also have extensive documentation.
- Protect access to your prescription pads.
- Keep your DEA and license number confidential.
- Ensure that prescriptions are written legibly and clearly, in order to prevent forgery.
- Move to electronic prescribing to avoid paper forgery.
- Adhere to refill policies and educating office staff.
- Request patients bring unused narcotics.
- Use PDMP’s to monitor patient prescribing, before you refill or add new medications.
- Refer patients with extensive pain management needs to specialized practices.
- Communicate with pharmacists, and providers, in order to report suspicious behavior and in order to prevent distribution.
Penalties for Drug Diversion
New health care reform initiatives have resulted in many changes to healthcare programs. These changes have resulted in more stringent penalties for the submission of false statements/claims and any illegal activities related to prescription drugs. The Affordable Care Act requires state medicaid agencies to suspend payments to physicians who have committed committed fraud, or who may have committed it. In addition, providers terminated for Medicare or Medicaid, are also terminated by Medicaid and the CHIP in all states.
In addition, attempting to divert drugs by misrepresentation, fraud, deception, or forgery, is a felony in most states and is punished by prison and/or fines. In the US Department of Health and Human Services, there are a range of law enforcement tools which can be used in order to impose sanctions and actions on healthcare providers, ranging from recoupment and restitution, to suspension of provider license, exclusion from participation in health care programs, and imprisonment.
How should drug diversion by reported
If a prescriber believes there is drug diversion occurring, then the activity should be documented, and then reported. Local law enforcement agencies should be notified. The DEA should be reported when it involves theft/loss of controlled substances.
DEA Drug Diversion Investigations
Raiser & Kenniff, PC, has immense experience helping healthcare providers facing DEA drug diversion investigations, get justice and legal help. We help physicians, physician assistants, pharmacists, and others, with all legal issues related to DEA drug diversion. We represent clients accused by the DEA of drug diversion in administrative, criminal investigations, and prosecutions.
The reasons used to validate and justify law enforcement actions taken by the DEA on suspected drug diversion takes all types of shapes and sizes. Drug diversion is a very common charge, which can result in a wide array of penalties. Drug diversion is when prescription drugs are improperly used for illegal purposes. Anyone involved in the chain of custody/sale/possession can be charged with DEA drug diversion activities. For example, a doctor who sells pills can be charged with drug diversion related penalties, in addition to the drug dealer, and the person who purchases the drugs. Often, charges are combined together by prosecutors in order to push for harsher penalties – both civil and criminal.
DEA drug diversion investigations vary widely. Many involve participation from law enforcement agencies, and other local officials. Typically, a joint task force will collect as much evidence as possible before taking actions. After gathering the evidence, they’ll pursue formal charges, and setup sting operations in an attempt to pose as drug dealers, so they can catch the healthcare provider in the act of drug diversion – in order to justify an arrest, or seizure of evidence.
Many states have attempted to stop drug diversion with their own laws. Most states have statutes which are applied to secure evidence of wrongdoing. For example, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes that over 23 states have laws which prevent patients from getting more than 30 day supply of medication. Most states also have limits on the emergency dispensing of medicine. DEA drug diversion investigations often focus on healthcare providers who fulfill orders they shouldn’t.
Statements Made to DEA Investigators Regarding DEA Drug Diversion Activities
Depending on the severity of your case, you may face criminal charges. Even if you don’t face criminal charges, your case might be referred to a prosecutor, in addition to state licensing authorities. Criminal charges stemming from alleged DEA drug diversion is very common among nurses, physicians, pharmacists. As a result, you have to be cautious when responding to state letters of investigation pertaining to DEA drug diversion allegations. Any statements you make to a state licensing investigator, can, and will, be used against you in both criminal and civil charges. Our firm works with all types of healthcare providers, in all stages of the investigation process. Whether it be a multiple count federal indictment, to a minor licensing issue. Our DEA drug diversion lawyers have experience representing doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and all other healthcare professionals who are accused of drug diversion.