In October of 2020 Dr. Eugene Gosy of Clarence, NY went to prison for 70 months for the way that he chose to prescribe opioids to his patients. The DEA outlined that he prescribed more pain killers than any other doctor in the state, often without conducting a physical examination first, or conducting only a limited one, and doing so in a way that was designed to cause dependence and addiction.
How worried should you be about prescribing pain medications, and what do you need to do to stay on the right side of the law?
Use the CDC Guidelines
The CDC offers a checklist for practitioners who are considering opioids for chronic pain management.
This checklist urges practitioners to do things like ensuring that non-opioid therapies have been tried and optimized, that they set realistic goals for pain and function, and that they consider the risk of harm or misuse.
They also set timelines for when the patient can and cannot renew without a visit.
You should also review New York’s state laws on the prescribing of opioids, and make sure you’ve completed all relevant training. New York requires you to complete 3 hours of CME training on Pain Management, Palliative Care, and Addiction every three years.
Ensure all prescriptions are medically justifiable.
One of the ways Dr. Gosy got himself into trouble was by failing to truly evaluate his patients. That is, he barely spent any time with them before going right ahead and prescribing pain medication.
A thorough diagnosis and thoughtful exploration of all of the options, as well as properly documenting the entire treatment plan for each and every patient, is the key to avoiding problems later.
Pay attention to signs that patients are misusing prescriptions.
The law makes it clear that doctors are expected to monitor their patient’s behavior with opioids and are to stop using them if there are signs that the patient is misusing the prescription.
If your patient keeps losing prescriptions or claiming they’ve been stolen, or keeps asking for increased doses, or continues to ask for early refills, then you might want to find a new way to treat that patient. You may also ask your patient to submit to blood and urine monitoring to ensure that they are not overdosing.
Penalties for violating the Controlled Substances Act
You can face up to 20 years in jail if you are convicted of misusing your position as a physician to improperly prescribe pain medication for your own profits. You could also lose your medical license and face incredible fines.
If you are in trouble, don’t hesitate to reach out to a qualified federal drug crimes attorney who can help you navigate and defend yourself against these accusations. The sooner you involve a lawyer, the better off you’re likely to be.