Saturday, June 23, 2012

Indiana Doctor Pleads Guilty To Excessive Prescribing - Is Your Practice Complying With State And Federal Laws And Guidelines?

On June 22, 2012, an Indiana doctor Ray Howell plead guilty to charges that he excessively prescribed narcotics and his plea agreement included surrendering his medical license. Indiana officials claimed that Dr. Howell issued over 11,000 prescriptions in a year. Howell plead guilty to 5 felonies including unlawful distribution of oxycodone. The DEA and state law enforcement are concerned that in some parts of the country prescription drug abuse has overshadowed methamphetamine and other unlawful drugs.

Howell's case is a reminder to physicians of what can go wrong in pain management. For those physicians who dispense pain medications as part of their practice it is important to learn from such cases without being fearful of prescribing narcotics. There is a legal way to prescribe controlled substances for intractable pain.

The law in California is that "No physician and surgeon shall be subject to disciplinary action by the board for prescribing or administering controlled substances in the course of treatment of a person for intractable pain."  Cal. Bus. Prof. Code Section 2241.5(c). How do you as a physician ensure that you fall within this law?

The first place to start is to review the California Medical Board's Guidelines for Prescribing Controlled Substances for Pain. This is a summary of the standard of care for managing pain patients. It has detailed advice that you are expected to know before you prescribe narcotics for pain management.

Second, review and comply with the DEA's Practitioner Manual to ensure you are complying with federal rules and regulations. It is usually the DEA who sends in undercover patients and initiates investigations when the CURES reports show a large number of prescriptions from a physician. There are more cases of state and local law enforcement getting involved in undercover operations as well but the DEA is in the forefront.

Third, seek legal and expert advice to make sure that your practice is compliant with existing laws, regulations and medical standard of care. If you did not comply with the existing rules in the past, it is not too late to change your practices and become compliant.

Posted by Tracy Green, Esq. Please email Ms. Green at or call her at 213-233-2260 to schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation.

Any questions or comments  should be directed to Tracy Green, a very experienced California physician attorney at tgreen@greenassoc.comThe firm focuses its practice on the representation of licensed professionals, individuals and businesses in civil, business, administrative and criminal proceedings. They have a specialty in representing licensed health care providers in California and throughout the country. Their website is:


DISCLAIMER: Green & Associates' articles and blog postings are prepared as a service to the public and are not intended to grant rights or impose obligations. Nothing in this website should be construed as legal advice. Green & Associates' articles and blog postings may contain references or links to statutes, regulations, or other policy materials. The information provided is only intended to be a general summary. It is not intended to take the place of either the written law or regulations. We encourage readers to review the specific statutes, regulations, and other interpretive materials for a full and accurate statement of their contents and contact their attorney for legal advice. The primary purpose of this website is not the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service and this website is not an advertisement or solicitation. Anyone viewing this web site in a state where the web site fails to comply with all laws and ethical rules of that state, should disregard this web site.

The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to create, and does not create, a lawyer-client relationship with Green & Associates, Attorneys at Law. Sending an e-mail to Tracy Green does not contractually obligate them to represent you as your lawyer, or create any type of client relationship. No attorney-client relationship will be formed absent a written engagement or retainer letter agreement signed by both Green & Associates and client and which specifies the scope of the engagement.

Please note that e-mail transmission is not secure unless it is encrypted. E-mail messages sent to Ms. Green should not include confidential or sensitive information.