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DEA Suspension and Revocation Orders

DEA Suspension and Revocation Orders: The Need for a Lawyer

Being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) can be a frightening and stressful experience for any healthcare professional. As the chief federal agency responsible for enforcing the controlled substance laws and regulations in the United States, the DEA has the authority to suspend or revoke a practitioner’s DEA registration if they believe there are grounds to do so. For healthcare providers who prescribe or administer controlled substances, the threat of losing their DEA registration is a serious matter that should not be taken lightly.

If you are facing suspension or revocation of your DEA registration, it is critical that you consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in DEA cases. An attorney can provide invaluable guidance and representation throughout the investigation and hearing process. This article will examine the DEA’s authority to suspend and revoke registrations, the reasons action may be taken, the implications for your practice, and why hiring legal counsel to advocate for you is so important.

DEA’s Authority to Suspend or Revoke Registrations

The Controlled Substances Act gives the DEA Administrator the authority to suspend or revoke a practitioner’s DEA registration if they believe there are sufficient grounds to do so. The specific statutory authority comes from 21 USC 824(a) which states:

A registration pursuant to section 823 of this title to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance or list I chemical may be suspended or revoked by the Attorney General upon a finding that the registrant—

(1) has materially falsified any application filed pursuant to or required by this subchapter or subchapter II of this chapter;

(2) has been convicted of a felony under this subchapter or subchapter II of this chapter or any other law of the United States, or of any State, relating to any substance defined in this subchapter as a controlled substance or list I chemical;

(3) has had his State license or registration suspended, revoked, or denied by competent State authority and is no longer authorized by State law to engage in the manufacturing, distribution, or dispensing of controlled substances or list I chemicals or has had the suspension, revocation, or denial of his registration recommended by competent State authority;

(4) has committed such acts as would render his registration under section 823 of this title inconsistent with the public interest as determined under such section;

(5) has been excluded (or directed to be excluded) from participation in a program pursuant to section 1320a–7(a) of title 42.

In essence, the DEA has the power to revoke or suspend if a registrant has falsified information, been convicted of a drug-related felony, had action taken against their state license, or committed acts that are inconsistent with public interest.

Reasons the DEA May Take Action Against a Dentist

For dentists, some of the most common reasons the DEA may take action against their registration include:

  • Improper or excessive prescribing of controlled substances
  • Prescribing without a legitimate medical purpose
  • Prescribing outside the usual course of professional practice
  • Failure to adhere to proper record keeping practices
  • Diversion of controlled substances for illegal or improper use
  • Self-abuse of controlled substances
  • Unlawful distribution of samples

Dentists have a special set of responsibilities when it comes to controlled substances. The DEA will look closely at your prescribing patterns, documentation, record-keeping, and security procedures to ensure you are complying with all regulations and duties required of your DEA registration.

Implications of DEA Registration Suspension or Revocation

For dentists, having your DEA registration suspended or revoked can severely impact your livelihood and practice. Without a valid DEA registration, you cannot dispense, prescribe, or administer controlled substances which are critical tools of the profession. Some major implications include:

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  • Inability to prescribe common dental drugs like opioids, sedatives, and anesthetics for pain management or procedures
  • Loss of hospital privileges if the hospital requires practitioners to have a DEA registration
  • Reduced patient pool since many patients expect pain medication for dental work
  • Potential layoffs of staff if practice revenues are reduced significantly
  • Reputation damage within the community

Even a temporary suspension of just a few months pending a final DEA decision could be financially devastating to a dental practice. Patients may seek out other providers during the suspension period and never return.

Why Hiring a Lawyer is Critical

Given the severe consequences, any dentist facing potential suspension or revocation of their DEA registration needs skilled legal counsel on their side. An experienced attorney understands the DEA’s investigation and hearing process inside and out. They can provide invaluable assistance including:

  • Responding to DEA Information Requests – If you receive an investigative subpoena or request for patient records from the DEA, an attorney can help object to inappropriate requests and ensure your response is thorough and compliant.
  • Submission of Written Statement – Before making a final decision, the DEA will give the registrant an opportunity to submit a written statement explaining their side of the story. An attorney can draft the most persuasive statement possible.
  • Settlement Negotiations – In some cases, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a favorable settlement with the DEA that avoids total revocation.
  • Administrative Hearings – If a hearing is held, your attorney can defend you by calling favorable witnesses, cross-examining government experts, objecting to evidence, and delivering closing arguments.
  • Mitigation Strategies – Even if the charges are legitimate, your lawyer can present mitigating circumstances to encourage a less severe sanction or probationary period.
  • Appellate Options – After a final DEA decision, your lawyer can evaluate options for appeals if the case was mishandled.

Having an attorney well-versed in controlled substance law is your best asset when navigating a complex DEA investigation involving your livelihood. Do not go it alone.

Relevant Penal Codes for Prosecuting Dentists

In addition to suspension or revocation through an administrative process, the DEA may choose to criminally prosecute a dentist through referral to the Department of Justice. The following are some of the main penal statutes used to prosecute healthcare professionals in these scenarios:

21 USC 841 – Prohibited Acts

This section of the Controlled Substances Act makes it unlawful for any person to knowingly or intentionally:

  • Manufacture, distribute, dispense, or possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance
  • Create, distribute, or dispense a counterfeit substance

Violations are felony offenses with penalties that depend on the substance, quantity, and whether serious injury or death resulted.

21 USC 842 – Prohibited Acts B

Under this section, it is unlawful for any person:

  • To distribute or dispense a controlled substance without proper registration
  • To intentionally provide false or fraudulent material information when registering
  • To make, distribute, or possess any punch, die, plate, stone, or other item that prints or reproduces a trademark, trade name, or other identifying mark onto a drug without authorization
  • To manufacture, distribute, or import any equipment designed to reproduce or administer a counterfeit substance

Penalties include up to 4 years imprisonment.

21 USC 843 – Prohibited Acts C

This section makes it illegal to:

  • Use a DEA registration number issued to another person
  • Acquire or obtain control of a controlled substance through misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, or subterfuge
  • Furnish false or fraudulent material information when making documents required by the CSA
  • Make, distribute, or possess fraudulent prescriptions

Penalties include fines and up to 4 years imprisonment.

18 USC 1347 – Health Care Fraud

Under this statute a healthcare professional can face up to 10 years imprisonment if they knowingly execute or attempt to execute a scheme to:

  • Defraud a health care benefit program
  • Obtain money or property from a health care benefit program through false pretenses

For dentists, this could apply if prescribing or billing practices constitute fraud against Medicaid, Medicare, or private insurers.

Relevant State Laws

In addition to federal charges, dentists may face prosecution under applicable state laws relating to the unlawful prescribing, dispensing, and mishandling of controlled substances and other medications.

An experienced controlled substances attorney can carefully examine the facts of your case and identify potential violations of federal or state law that could lead to criminal charges. They will aggressively defend you and advocate for your rights and interests throughout any criminal proceedings.

Key Federal Laws, Regulations, and Guidelines

Understanding the intricate legal framework surrounding controlled substance prescribing and dispensing practices is critical when dealing with a DEA investigation or potential criminal charges. Some of the most relevant laws, regulations, and guidelines that apply to dentists include:

Controlled Substances Act (21 USC 801-971)

This federal statute establishes the legal criteria for regulating controlled substances including schedules of drugs, registration requirements, manufacturing quotas, labeling and packaging standards, security protocols, and prohibitions on illegal distribution, prescribing, and dispensing. Critical sections like 21 USC 824 and 841 discussed earlier stem directly from this Act.

Code of Federal Regulations Title 21

Title 21 contains the DEA regulations that provide more detailed requirements relating to controlled substances including registration, records and reports, prescriptions, manufacturing, distributing, inventory, disposal, imports/exports, and security. Dentists authorized to handle controlled substances must comply with these regulations.

State Dental Practice Acts

Each state has laws governing the practice of dentistry within their jurisdiction. While requirements vary, most dental practice acts have provisions applicable to controlled substance prescribing and dispensing as well as inventory documentation, record keeping, and security safeguards dentists must adhere to.

State Pharmacy Laws and Regulations

State boards of pharmacy oversee laws and regulations pertaining directly to dispensing prescription drugs including controlled substances. As prescribers, dentists must understand and comply with pharmacy laws impacting issuance of valid prescriptions, refills, record keeping, inventories, and information reporting into prescription drug monitoring programs.

CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain

These CDC guidelines are not legally binding requirements but provide evidence-based recommendations for safe and appropriate prescribing of opioids for chronic pain outside of end-of-life care. The guidelines address when to initiate opioids, appropriate selection and dosage, risk mitigation, and safety precautions. Failure to follow the guidelines may draw the DEA’s attention.

Law/Regulation Key Provisions
Controlled Substances Act Creates drug schedules, registration requirements, quotas, labeling standards, security protocols, and penalties for illegal prescribing/dispensing
21 CFR Title 21 DEA regulations on registration, record keeping, prescriptions, inventory, security for controlled substances
State Dental Practice Acts Laws on dentistry practices including controlled substance prescribing and dispensing
State Pharmacy Laws Laws on dispensing prescription drugs including issuing valid scripts, inventory control, reporting
CDC Opioid Prescribing Guideline Evidence-based recommendations for safe opioid prescribing for chronic pain

Consulting with an attorney knowledgeable in these laws, regulations, and guidelines is vital when preparing your response to a DEA investigation or potential criminal charges.

Responding to a DEA Investigation

If you are the subject of a DEA inquiry or investigation, it is essential to engage experienced legal counsel early on to protect your interests. Here are some tips for responding appropriately:

  • Be cooperative and professional in all interactions with DEA agents but avoid volunteering unnecessary information.
  • Have your lawyer deal directly with the DEA when possible to avoid accidental self-incrimination.
  • If you receive a target letter identifying you as a target, take it very seriously and contact your attorney immediately.
  • If you are served with an administrative subpoena or criminal grand jury subpoena, your attorney can help ensure a careful and legally compliant response.
  • Meet with your lawyer as needed to prepare for questioning, written statements, or testimony you may have to provide.
  • Follow your attorney’s advice about whether and how to communicate with former employees or patients the DEA contacts.
  • Work closely with your lawyer ahead of any hearings so your strongest case can be presented.

Keep in mind that anything you say or provide to the DEA outside the presence of counsel can potentially be used against you. Protect your rights by relying on your experienced attorney to handle communications and steer you safely through the investigation.

Conclusion

Facing DEA scrutiny can be daunting, but you do not have to go through it alone. By understanding the DEA’s authorities, hiring experienced legal counsel, and diligently responding to investigative inquiries, you can work to protect your DEA registration and avoid criminal prosecution. Your future livelihood and freedom may depend on making the right legal choices right away.

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