Recently in Illegal Prescriptions Category

Proposed Bill Would Expand Use of Tennessee Prescription Drug Database

January 11, 2012, by The McKellar Law Firm, PLLC

Most can agree that the abuse of prescription narcotics (oxycodone, oxycontin, etc.) is an epidemic in America. According to police, this type of drug abuse has now surpassed the use of methamphetamine and crack cocaine. Lawmakers in Tennessee hope to be at the forefront of combating the problem by proposing new legislation that would require prescribers and pharmacists to check the prescription drug database for potential abuse.

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In an article by Matt Lakin (and posted on KnoxNews.com) titled "Checks and balances: Doctors, law enforcement spar over prescription-drug database," Tennessee Senator Ken Yager's bill addressing the prescription drug database is outlined. Senator Yager proposes that the current database be used more "effectively" by requiring pharmacists to check the database for all patients, even long established ones, before writing or filling any narcotic prescriptions. He hopes this will help deter patients from doctor-shopping for the drugs.
Tennessee's current database is only accessible by pharmacists and doctors. However, doctors and pharmacists are only required to log the prescriptions in the database. Currently, there is no law requiring the database to be checked prior to writing or filling a prescription.

According to the article the most recent statistics state that "13.7 million prescriptions" were logged last year, but only "1.2 million checks" were made of patient profiles in Tennessee.

Critics of Yager's bill are concerned about the time it will take doctors and pharmacist to check the database and the effects the bill may have on the doctor-patient relationship. Prosecutors' answer to these concerns are to allow broader access by others such as doctor's support staff, pharmacy technicians, probation and parole officers, drug court judges, etc. This broadening of access raises privacy and abuse concerns with the Tennessee Medical Association.

Yager states that it is likely that more than one bill will be introduced regarding the prescription database issue next year. His bill will only support checks made by pharmacist and doctors. He understands that a bigger burden will be placed on doctors and pharmacists, but explains something must be done to hinder those trying to obtain multiple prescriptions. Yager expects to present his bill in January, 2012.

Tennessee Doctor Indicted for Illegally Prescribing Controlled Substances

December 1, 2010, by The McKellar Law Firm, PLLC

Earlier this week, a Tennessee federal grand jury issued an 85-count indictment against Chattanooga area doctor Richard Adler for allegedly illegally prescribing controlled substances. The 69-year-old doctor appeared in Court on Monday for his initial appearance and entered a plea of not guilty to all charges.

The Department of Justice Press Release states:

The indictment alleges that Dr. Adler knowingly and intentionally dispensed, and cause to be dispensed, quantities of controlled substances, outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose. Among the controlled substances alleged to have been illegally prescribed are Oxycontin, Hydrocodone, Methadone, and Endocet. The indictment further alleges that Dr. Adler knowingly and intentionally dispensed, and cause to be dispensed, outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose, Oxycodone, that resulted in the deaths of two patients.

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As one might expect, whenever a death results from an improper prescription for a controlled substance, the penalties are severe. In this particular case, both counts alleging that death resulted from the illegal dispensing of a controlled substance (Oxycodone) carry a minimum penalty of 20 years to life in prison.

The core issue in most of these illegal prescription cases is whether the doctor acted within the scope of professional conduct and whether the prescriptions were given to the patient for a legitimate medical purpose. Oftentimes, experts (who are typically practicing medical doctors) will be required to give expert opinion on the legitimacy of the doctor's actions. Accordingly, if you are a doctor facing a potential government investigation of your medical practice, you should contact a health care fraud attorney immediately and secure outside professionals to evaluate the legitimacy your practice and your methods for issuing prescriptions.


Additional Resources
Department of Justice Press Release, Eastern District of Tennessee, November 29, 2010

Tennessee Doctor Guilty of Illegally Dispensing Drugs, TennCare Fraud, and Attempted Tax Evasion

November 16, 2010, by The McKellar Law Firm, PLLC

Chattanooga Tennessee Doctor pleaded guilty earlier this month to writing illegal prescriptions for Oxycodone, defrauding TennCare, and for attempting to evade taxes. Dr. Samuel Ashby admitted to writing prescriptions which were not withing the accepted standards of medical care. Accordingly, TennCare paid benefits for prescriptions which were not necessary, which was fraudulent.

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As with many investigations involving pain clinics and pain management practices, the investigation was launched in response to complaints by citizens about the doctor operating a "pill mill." In response to those complaints, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service launched a joint investigation. One of their first steps was to execute a search warrant to obtain medical records from Dr. Ashby's office.

Dr. Ashby's sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 21, 2011. He faces faces a up to 20 years in prison for illegal distribution of a controlled substance; up to 10 years in prison for healthcare fraud; and up to five years in prison for the tax crimes.

As I have explained to clients in the medical field before, the Government treats doctors who write illegal prescriptions as drug dealers. U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee Bill Killian echoes this position when he states in regards to Dr. Ashby's case:

This case demonstrates our office's commitment to addressing the ever-growing problem of prescription drug abuse. Increasingly we are finding unscrupulous healthcare professionals involved in illegally distributing drugs. When a doctor steps outside the bounds of professional practice and prescribes narcotics without medical justification, he or she becomes simply a drug dealer.

Additional Resources
"Fayetteville Doctor Pleads Guilty," The Chattanoogan.com, November 3, 2010