The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) operates under the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). The DEA is a branch of federal law enforcement that investigates drug crimes involving criminal trafficking groups and healthcare professionals with access to scheduled legal pharmaceuticals who divert them into illegal distribution. The DEA can launch investigations for many reasons, including an increase in prescribing opioids or losing the eligibility to participate in Medicaid or Medicare.

Once an investigation is complete, your only required action may be to better record how you store controlled pharmaceuticals. In other situations, you may have your DEA Registration suspended or revoked, or you may find yourself at the mercy of the DOJ with federal criminal charges for trafficking or distribution. If DEA investigators discover or suspect improprieties in your practice or pharmacy, a Columbia DEA defense lawyer should intercede immediately. Call the Law Office of Bill Nettles to learn more.

The Role of the DEA in Federal Drug Investigations

The DEA works to ensure the safety, availability, and proper handling, prescribing, and distribution of medications as well as the cessation of illegal drug trafficking. Its Project Wave Breaker is in place to destroy the flow of fentanyl in the United States, and its Diversion Control Division exists to stop controlled pharmaceuticals and chemicals from being diverted from legitimate medical and scientific purposes to illegal use.

The scope of the DEA is broad. They investigate drug cartels, nurses suspected of stealing opioids for personal use, doctors who allegedly overprescribe them, and pharmacists who may be selling them on the side. Information is derived from state-of-the-art intelligence, whistleblowers, local and state law enforcement, and informants. If a DEA agent knocks on a physician’s or pharmacist’s door with a Notice of Inspection, Form 82, it is time to contact an experienced Columbia DEA defense attorney.

Federal Drug Schedules

Under Title 21 of the United States Code, the government identifies five schedules to determine a federal drug crime’s severity. These schedules are based on whether the drug in question has any medical value and how addictive it is. Many prescription drugs are addictive and damaging if misused but have medical benefits, particularly for pain relief, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, and morphine, which generally fall into Schedule II of the federal drug schedules.

These valuable but easily abused drugs are highly controlled, and irregularities in how a pharmacy or medical facility handles them will make those medical professionals targets in DEA investigations. If you know or suspect you are a target of a DEA inspection, contact a Columbia DEA defense attorney to assess the situation and vigorously advocate on your behalf.

What Does the DEA Want?

The DEA wants evidence that a physician, pharmacist, manufacturer, or other healthcare provider or employee of a practice has diverted controlled prescription drugs into an illegal market or has been lax with controlling them. An investigation usually begins with a Notice of Inspection. DEA investigators will delve into:

  • Compliance protocol
  • Physician prescription pads if agents suspect forgery
  • The log of issued prescriptions from medical practices or pharmacies
  • The log for pharmaceuticals stored on the premises and a physical tour of the drug storage facility
  • Information concerning drug disposal
  • Employee information via interviews
  • Insurance billing records, especially for Medicare and Medicaid

Problems the DEA might uncover include improper billing or coding, overprescribing controlled drugs, missing pharmaceuticals or chemicals used to manufacture them, and prescription forgery. In some cases, widescale prescription drug trafficking and distribution have come to light. These charges are serious. Federal drug trafficking carries a prison sentence of up to 40 years. To avoid catastrophic consequences fueled by a DEA investigation, contact an experienced defense attorney in Columbia.

Let a Columbia DEA Defense Attorney Work for You

In many cases, your attorney can negotiate with the DEA for you to correct administrative improprieties without suspending or revoking your DEA Registration. If your registration is revoked or suspended, we could help you reinstate it and stand by your side during administrative hearings.

If charges are criminal and the DOJ becomes involved, the investigation escalates and can involve federal criminal charges for diversion, drug trafficking, or distribution. Do not take any DEA investigation lightly. Your career is in jeopardy, and your freedom is at stake. Contact a Columbia DEA defense lawyer to understand your options and protect your rights.

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