You may only realize the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has singled you out until inspectors show up at your medical practice, clinic, or pharmacy with a Notice of Inspection. You can allow them to conduct what amounts to an investigation or deny it, forcing them to obtain an administrative warrant for which they do not have to show probable cause. If they have evidence against you, they can obtain a warrant from the criminal court judge.

The investigation is a methodical magnifying glass on your protocols concerning legal, controlled pharmaceuticals; how you prescribe them, to whom, how regularly, and how you store and dispense them on the premises. Some irregularities can quickly be rectified, some may lead to a suspension or revocation of your DEA Registration, and some could bring criminal charges from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Contact a Columbia DEA investigations lawyer once you are aware they are watching you. Our dedicated DEA defense attorneys are ready to stand by your side.

What is the DEA?

The DEA is an arm of the Department of Justice that identifies, investigates, and halts drug trafficking in the U.S. The DEA dedicates itself to keeping legal, controlled pharmaceuticals available for bona fide patients while stopping the diversion of pharmaceuticals into the illegal drug trade.

Triggers to DEA Investigations

The DEA does not target healthcare providers randomly. Agents look for red flags using tips from informants, whistleblowers, local law enforcement, and state-of-the-art surveillance when necessary. Some red flags that tip off DEA agents include:

  • Physicians who write many prescriptions for controlled pharmaceuticals
  • When the same controlled substance is continually prescribed
  • Areas of the country known for illicit prescription drug abuse
  • Coding errors involving controlled prescription drugs
  • Medical professionals who have had issues with the DEA in the past

Once they are suspicious, DEA agents will show up at the targeted business with Form 82, the Notice of Inspection. The inspection centers around how controlled drugs and the chemicals used to manufacture them are prescribed, accounted for, dispensed, and disposed of when they expire. Medical providers interacting with the DEA inspection of a medical practice, hospital, pharmacy, clinic, or pharmaceutical manufacturing facility should contact a Columbia DEA investigations attorney immediately.

The DEA Inspection

DEA agents will pore over prescription records to see if there is a pattern of alleged abuse, for instance, an excessive number of addictive pain pills prescribed to the same patient. They will ask to see any written information detailing a practice’s protocol for safekeeping drugs from theft or loss and whether employees authorized to work with the pharmaceuticals must sign in and conduct drug counts.

Agents scrutinize insurance files, especially how a practice bills Medicaid or Medicare. They also interview employees, especially if they suspect one of diverting medication for personal use.

After the Inspection

After concluding an inspection, DEA agents can ask targets to surrender their DEA licenses voluntarily. This is not preferable because it can lead to other actions against other licenses and could preclude the target from getting another from the DEA. This also means targets waive their right to an administrative hearing.

Refusing to turn over the DEA Registration means medical providers are entitled to an administrative hearing before a judge to explain why their licenses should not be suspended or revoked. The DEA will issue an Order to Show Cause before the hearing can be set. Before interacting with the DEA, consult a Columbia DEA investigations attorney for advice.

Criminal Activity

If DEA agents report findings of criminal activity, such as diverting prescription drugs into street drugs, they will alert the Department of Justice, and investigations will continue into the targeted practice.

Let a Columbia DEA Investigations Attorney Help Protect Your Rights

You may make some Medicare billing errors, an employee may divert prescription drugs for personal use, or your clinic may be in an area known for illicit prescription drug deals. It does not matter whether your actions and intentions are within the law’s scope; certain events may trigger the DEA to monitor you more closely and could result in an investigation of your practice or pharmacy.

If the DEA report alleges criminal activity, the DOJ will continue the investigation with additional searches and possible seizures. Losing your DEA Registration, your ability to prescribe medications, or your freedom if convicted of criminal charges are all life-changing. Contact a Columbia DEA investigations lawyer for the help you need now.

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