At Haas Law, we help doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and other medical professionals fight State and Federal “pill mill” charges. The DEA and FBI aggressively bring pill mill charges against medical professionals who are involved in the treatment of patients suffering from chronic pain.
The Government uses federal drug conspiracy laws, typically used to prosecute street-level drug dealers, to go after healthcare professionals who work in pain clinics. We team with reputable medical experts who help explain to the Government or a jury how medical professional clients are lawfully and legitimately practicing medicine.
What is a “Pill Mill?”
The term “pill mill” has adopted in the mainstream to refer to a medical clinic or doctor’s office that is accused of distributing pain medication (usually opioids) without a legitimate medical purpose and/or outside the usual course of a professional medical practice. By alleging as much, the Government argues that it is not a legitimate medical office and is, effectively, just a “licensed” street level drug dealer. The Government also argues that the medical professional is not concerned about the welfare of patients and, instead, is just interested in making money.
Law enforcement typically identifies “red flags” that they believe suggest a medical clinic is operating as a “pill mill.” However, these concerns to law enforcement are often legal activities themselves. For example, if a pain clinic has patients travelling from long distances, the Government may suspect it is a “pill mill.” However, due to DEA’s own crackdowns on pain clinics, patients with chronic pain issues face tremendous difficulty finding a clinic near their home.
The DEA also thinks that the fact that medical fees are high and accept cash are “red flags” even though there is nothing illegal about either. Medical treatment is expensive and not everyone can afford health insurance.
Doctors who prescribe a lot of pain medications such as Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, Fentanyl, or Morphine frequently attract the attention of the DEA. Sometimes, DEA contends that a combination of drugs described as the “holy trinity” (opiods, benzodiazepines, and carisoprodols) is a “red flag.” Sometimes the Government argues that the volume of narcotics being sold is a “red flag.” We contend that the best person to prescribe the necessary medications to a patient is that person’s doctor. Prescribing pain medication is a logical medical solution to treating chronic pain.
Government Investigations of “Pill Mills”
Most investigations of medical clinics involve federal agents obtaining much more than just prescription records. Investigators also obtain bank records, patient files, and wholesaler records. The government will even attempt to interview the clinic’s patients or conduct undercover operations inside the clinic to obtain narcotics where they pose as patients with chronic pain. Usually, the government will then execute a search warrant at the clinic to obtain the patient files. The Government will then hire its own “expert” to review the target’s prescribing habits and records. The “expert” will almost always agree with the Government’s theories. Next, their “expert” will prepare a brief summary report saying that the targeted doctor was over prescribing pain medications.
These investigations take are time consuming to complete and are concluded when they arrest the doctor and any other clinic owner. Sometimes other employees will also be arrested and given lighter sentences if they cooperate against the medical professionals. The Government also seizes bank accounts of the clinic and the personal accounts of the doctor or owner of the clinic.
How We Defend Health Care Professionals in “Pill Mill” Cases
Defending doctors and other healthcare professionals charged in “pill mill” investigations in federal court requires an experienced attorney who is willing to invest the time to review thousands of records and patient files. It also requires an attorney to secure expert medical testimony to show that clients were operating lawfully and legitimately. Next, the legal team must interview the potential Government witnesses to decipher their anticipated testimony and to determine any bias or impeachment against our client.
The penalties for medical professionals unlawfully distributing narcotics without a legitimate medical purpose and/or outside the usual course of a professional medical practice can be more severe than street-level drug dealers.
Additional Penalties for Patient Overdose Deaths
The Government also attempts to hold doctors responsible for patients who abuse prescribed medication to such an extent that they overdose and die. Even if it was completely unforeseeable to the doctor that the patient would ignore dosage directions, the Government will charge the doctor with these patient deaths. If a doctor is convicted of prescribing pain medication without a legitimate medical purpose, and the patient later overdoses on those drugs and dies, the doctor faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and may be sentenced up to life behind bars.
We fight to show that, albeit tragic that the patient died, the doctor was not criminally responsible for the death. This is often a complex medical examination that requires reputable pathologists and toxicologists to determine if there were other contributing factors to the patient’s death.
If You Need Help, Call Us
Defending doctors, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals in “pill mill” cases can be extraordinarily difficult and hiring the right lawyer is critical. Contacting Haas Law as soon as you think you are even being suspected of improper conduct is critical.
Too many times, we have seen cases improperly handled by attorneys before the client contacts us. Nevertheless, when a client becomes dissatisfied with their original lawyer because that lawyer is not very experienced in defending federal charges or the lawyer is not investing the time that these cases demand, we can be hired to assist the client’s current lawyer or take over the case completely, depending on what is best for the particular client. We also assist clients in sentencing hearings and grand jury investigations involving related allegations.
If you or someone you know is currently involved in a “pill mill” investigation or prosecution, or has been charged with unlawfully dispensing dangerous drugs, call us at 407-755-7675 and let us help you navigate these complex cases.