by | last updated on January 21, 2016
In recent years, state and federal authorities have taken a strong interest in cracking down on Florida’s so-called “pill mills” and doctors at these clinics. This comes in light of statistics that show the state as the lead consumer and nationwide supplier of powerful prescription pain medications like oxycodone.Drug enforcement agency efforts to control illegal pain medication sales and distribution have had auxiliary impact. Licensed medical doctors and other professionals often are swept up in clinic seizures and accused of healthcare fraud at the alleged pill mills. These doctors may be charged with serious crimes – including prescribing lethal doses of painkillers – and judged based on the clinic’s illicit practices.This has led some doctors to abandon the practice of pain management altogether. Legitimate doctors are increasingly threatened with jail time, fines, and loss of license should they be charged with crimes relating to an employer’s policies or practices.

How One Case Illustrates the Problem with Clinic & Doctor Crackdowns

On July 30, 2013, two South Florida doctors were acquitted of charges that they wrote prescriptions that caused the fatal overdose of several clinic patients. A conviction could have meant life imprisonment for the doctors.

The two doctors were initially arrested and charged as part of a 2010 large-scale sting operation targeting South Florida pain medication clinics. The pair pled not guilty on charges they overprescribed medications.

According to the Miami Herald, the two were found guilty on lesser charges of money laundering conspiracy. A federal jury in West Palm Beach, however, found that they had been acting within the bounds of their profession by prescribing painkillers to patients suffering chronic and debilitating pain.

Previously, Sun Sentinel reported that prosecutors had tried to draw a connection between the illicit actions of clinic owners and those of their employees. The clinic reportedly did not take insurance, stored cash payments in garbage bins, and allowed patients to bring in clean urine samples so they could pass drug tests.

Defending a Doctor’s Right to Practice Medicine in Florida

During the trial, defense argued that conviction on the prescription-related charges would send a dangerous message to doctors in Florida. Punishing medical professionals for treating patients’ pain would set a harmful precedent that would impact doctors and patients alike, they said.

Expert testimony supported those assertions, with medical professionals like Dr. Carol Warfield of Harvard University speaking on behalf of the defense.

The defense also presented testimony and evidence that supported its contention that prescribing doctors cannot control how a patient uses or misuses a painkiller outside of a medical setting.

Other potential aspects of defense in such a case might include:

  • a doctor’s educational and professional credentials and history of successfully assisting patients in similar medical situations;
  • medical records that support a doctor’s chosen course of treatment;
  • evidence and documentation that prove a distinction between a clinic owner’s actions and those of the accused doctors; and
  • character witnesses to speak to the accused’s ethical and professional standards.

If you are a doctor or other medical professional charged with overprescribing painkillers or contributing to patient death, contact our Fort Lauderdale-based defense team. We are available by calling 954-861-0384 or via this online contact form.