Prescription Drug Crimes

Federal Prescription Drug Distribution & Fraud

As a result of the opioid crisis, numerous health care professionals face scrutiny from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal officials to prevent the illegal distribution of highly addictive medications like oxycodone and fentanyl. Unfortunately, even lawful and ethical healthcare providers can have reputations and careers ruined just from an investigation. During these inquiries, the government completely disrupts day-to-day operations as they attempt to gather information in the form of interviews with patients and employees, patient records, court-ordered subpoenas, and other data. This process can create a lot of stress for a provider and organization, and therefore, it is of the utmost importance to have legal counsel throughout the process. With over 25 years of experience, Peter Katz is the criminal defense attorney you want to guide you through every step of an investigation.

Prescription Drug Fraud: Crimes and Punishment

Prescription Drug crimes are often prosecuted as violations of Federal distribution laws in addition to Health Care Fraud. The most common types of prescription drug crimes include possession of controlled substances without a valid prescription, use of controlled substances without a valid prescription, forgery of a prescription, and doctor shopping. Doctor shopping refers to when an individual goes to multiple physicians to obtain multiple prescriptions of the same drug. Conviction of prescription drug fraud can lead to penalties as severe as life imprisonment and millions of dollars in fines. For healthcare professionals, convictions can also mean probation or even full license suspension.

Defining Illegal Drug Distribution

Although many healthcare professionals are legally allowed to prescribe or distribute controlled substances, they can still be prosecuted for a federal offense under Title 21, United States Code, Section 841, if they provide prescriptions that are not medically necessary.

Illegal Drug Distribution: The Criminal Elements

Illegal drug distribution occurs when an individual knowingly provides a controlled substance that the individual knows is a controlled substance. Even among healthcare professionals, unethical colleagues or simple mistakes can lead to a serious conviction that will not only take away your career but your freedom as a result of incarceration. If you are ever under investigation for a prescription drug crime, do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Peter Katz, to protect your lifestyle and noble profession.

Crimes and Punishment

When Federal prosecutors bring Prescription Drug charges, they frequently utilize from the Health Care Fraud statutes (which carry a penalty of ten to twenty years) and the harsh Federal illegal drug distribution laws, like Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841 and 846. Under this provision, one could face the steep penalty of life imprisonment and a $1,000,000 fine.

  • New York State Criminal Diversion of Prescription Medication
What is “Illegal Distribution?”

When Federal prosecutors investigate drug trafficking, their scope is not just limited to instances that we have seen on popular television shows, notably, international drug traffickers smuggling cocaine into the United States. While these examples do make up a lot of efforts on the part of Federal prosecutors, they also focus their attention on health care professionals accused of distributing prescription medications unlawfully.

  • Federal Law Enforcement: From the FBI to the US Attorney & Their Respective Roles
  • From Witness to Target: Potential Exposure & Consequences of a Federal Investigation
  • The Federal Court Process From Arrest to Potential Sentence
  • Understanding the Federal Arrest Process: The Importance of Knowledgeable Counsel
  • Federal Sentencing Guidelines: Understanding Your Criminal Exposure

Title 21, United States Code, Section 841, makes it illegal for any person to knowingly or intentionally distribute a controlled substance unless otherwise authorized under law. If a medical provider, like a doctor or pharmacist, knowingly distributes unnecessary prescription medications, they run the risk of Federal charges.

Illegal Drug Distribution: The Criminal Elements

Here are the elements of illegal drug distribution:

  1. The defendant distributed (sold or gave) the controlled substance knowing it was medically unnecessary;
  2. The defendant did so knowingly or intentionally; and
  3. The defendant knew that the substance was a controlled substance.

As a society, we value our medical providers. Not only do our nurses, pharmacists, and doctors provide us with essential medical care and attention, they do so after investing a great deal of time and effort to obtain the necessary credentials to work in the medical field. Nevertheless, even the most intelligent, hardworking, and honest professionals could suddenly find themselves or their employer under prosecutorial scrutiny. On the other hand, perhaps a colleague made a mistake or violated their duty by unnecessarily prescribing medications to patients. No matter the circumstances, alleged or actual involvement in an Illegal Drug Distribution situation could tarnish one's reputation and end their career.

  • Understanding Federal Subpoenas: How the Government Can Force You to Appear
  • Federal Arrest Warrant: What it Means & Your Next Steps

In the event, DEA, FBI, or other Federal investigators come to your home or employer with a search warrant and ask to speak with you, patients, or employees, contact a lawyer. The sooner you have representation, the better. Then, not only can you work to prepare your defense, but have someone communicate with law enforcement on your behalf.