Every pharmacy in the United States is subject to the supervision of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The DEA is appointed with verifying the compliance of pharmacies with the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and has a variety of tools at its disposal to execute its mandate. Pharmacy inspection is one of these tools. While conducting an examination, the DEA is not accountable to numerous legal restrictions that would generally apply to investigations and audits. Yet if an inspection discovers evidence of opioid diversion or any other type of prescription drug fraud, the scrutiny can prompt further litigation, and pharmacy owners, pharmacists, and other professionals can face criminal or civil penalties.
1. The DEA Must Obtain Informed Consent to Conduct an Inspection Without a Warrant.
Much like an audit, to inspect without a warrant, the DEA must obtain informed consent. The consent may be granted by any person with authority to act in the interests of the pharmacy, but it must be in writing. The informed consent document will specify that consent has been granted voluntarily with a complete understanding of the right to decline, and that any evidence acquired during the investigation may be used as evidence in subsequent litigation.
When receiving a request for consent for a DEA inspection, pharmacy owners and pharmacists must consider their options meticulously. While it may be enticing to grant permission outright to give the impression of helpfulness and resolve the issue as swiftly as possible, if there is implicating evidence revealed, pharmacy owners and pharmacists must attempt to secure as many defenses as possible. A vital defense strategy in federal criminal cases is eliminated by voluntarily consenting to a search and seizure. As a consequence, pharmacy owners and pharmacists should consult with an attorney before granting consent to an inspection.
2. Informed Consent Is an All-or-Nothing Proposition When It Comes to DEA Pharmacy Inspections
If you decide to grant the DEA informed consent to conduct an investigation, it is imperative to be aware of the fact that giving consent is an all-or-nothing proposition. Once you allow the DEA access to the pharmacy, it will have access to all of the pharmacy’s personnel, records, and files. Bear in mind that at this point, obstructing the investigation can create some severe legal issues for you, and there is no way whatsoever to take back consent if you realize at some point that you have made a grave mistake by voluntarily consenting to the investigation.
3. The DEA Can Still Scrutinize Your Pharmacy by Obtaining an Administrative Inspection Warrant If You Refuse to Consent to an Investigation
Refusing to grant your informed consent does not mean that the DEA will withdraw from your pharmacy. Despite the possibility that the DEA might not have the evidence necessary to establish probable cause to obtain a criminal search warrant, it can still investigate by utilizing an administrative inspection subpoena. These subpoenas do not necessitate probable cause, yet are still adequately extensive to allow DEA agents to inspect all facets of your pharmacy’s management practices and prescription drug dispensing.
4. Being Too Eager to Help May Do More Harm Than Good
Plenty of people assume that collaborating with DEA agents during a pharmacy investigation will assist them with avoiding penalties and negative consequences. They like to think that they have nothing to fret about, and if through the twist of fate an unintentional mistake occurs, they will be “credited” for helping the agency with its investigation.
However, over-cooperating with the DEA’s inspection of your pharmacy will typically be more harmful than beneficial. It’s not suggested to interfere with the investigation, but you do not have to voluntarily contribute information either. Let the DEA agents do their jobs and let your attorney make sure that nothing about the investigation leaves you and your practice unprotected to the unwarranted risk of criminal or civil penalties.
5. DEA Investigations Can Target an Array of Different Controlled Substances Act Violations
Among the reasons why being overly collaborative can be harmful is that, in most situations, you will not know what it is that the DEA is searching for. The Controlled Substances Act encompasses various prohibitions, including prohibitions that are both particular and non-particular to the pharmaceutical field. If you share information voluntarily related to a matter that the DEA is not currently investigating, it could provoke additional inspections and possibly lead to severe punishments.
DEA pharmacy inspections target common issues, including:
- Underfilling and overfilling of prescriptions
- Refilling prescriptions that are no longer valid
- Tricare, Medicaid, and Medicare billing violations
- Sale of prescription medications
- Diversion of opioids and other prescription medications
Call an Atlanta Pharmacy DEA Inspection Attorney Today
We bring our prestigious large law firm and government service backgrounds to a small firm setting to offer you our extensive expertise in a personal, individualized approach where each case gets our full attention and our clients know they’re our priority. It’s with this personalized and customized attention that we can help protect your business against any risk by being proactive. By waiting to call an attorney, you could be jeopardizing your business by leaving it vulnerable. Consult with an Atlanta pharmacy DEA inspection attorney to get ahead of the circumstances and avoid complications. We welcome you to call Hasson Law Group LLP at (678) 701-2869 to speak with an expert attorney who has the experience required to keep you in good standing and safeguard your license. We are proud to serve the Atlanta, Georgia area since 2013.