The DEA and FBI are aggressively investigating and prosecuting pill mill crimes across the United States. They are committed to bringing charges against physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and other medical professionals who over-prescribe narcotics.
However, determining what’s medically appropriate for pain medication isn’t always clear, and pill mill cases aren’t straightforward to defend. It takes an expert lawyer to go up against the government.
What Is a Pill Mill?
The term “pill mill” can refer to any number of things, from a single doctor to a full ring of clinics and pharmacies. Regardless of the size, all pill mills prescribe or dispense narcotics for non-medical purposes or in excess of patient needs.
Though pill mills come in many shapes and sizes, there are a few red flags that government investigators look for when identifying possible pill mills, such as:
- Clinics that only accept cash payments
- Clinics or pharmacies that use security guards
- Physicians, clinics, or pharmacies that regularly attract large crowds
- Clinics or physicians that attract young patients from far away
While all of these signs can point to a pill mill operation, none of them are definitive proof that a pill mill exists.
If the government agency suspects a physician, clinic, or pharmacy is operating as part of a pill mill, they’ll launch an investigation and collect prescription records. Then, they’ll assign their own expert to analyze the findings.
If the expert agrees that the doctor or medical professionals prescribe or dispense medications that patients don’t need, the government will investigate further. If they find more evidence of any sort, they may raid the clinic or pharmacy and arrest the physicians and their staff.
Why are Pill Mills Considered a White Collar Crime?
The term “white-collar crime” was coined in 1939 and referred to fraud committed by a business or government. Typically, white-collar crimes are financially motivated and non-violent.
True pill mills are always financially motivated, and they’re not directly violent. Though patients addicted to narcotics are at risk of overdose and death, the medical professionals involved in the pill mill aren’t killing or injuring with their own hands.
That said, pill mills aren’t victimless. The opioid epidemic has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths due to overdose, and pill mill operations are a significant contributor. Given the recent increases in opioid abuse, government agencies are very interested in finding and stopping pill mills.
Federal law states that physicians may not prescribe pain medications without a legitimate medical need. If they do, they’re going directly against the Controlled Substances Act and can be charged with drug trafficking.
Drug trafficking is a felony that can result in a lengthy prison sentence. So, even though pill mills are a non-violent, white-collar crime, conviction comes with severe costs.
On top of that, the government may pursue other charges in relation to pill mills, such as healthcare fraud, mail and wire fraud, and money laundering. All of these can add years to sentencing.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Prescription opioids are vital tools that doctors and medical professionals use to treat chronic pain, but they’ve come under intense public and government scrutiny in recent years.
In many cases, a physician that’s well within their legal rights still ends up in a pill mill investigation. The government agency may have been tipped off by various “red flags” or received a report from a former disgruntled employee.
In those cases, a lawyer can help physicians and other medical professionals receive a not-guilty verdict. They’ll do this by securing expert medical testimony that explains why the doctor or medical professional was medically justified to prescribe or dispense the medications.
They’ll also interview the government witnesses to identify any bias or dishonorable motives.
Beyond that, a lawyer can act quickly to contest the forfeiture of the doctor’s assets and property, including personal property like a car or home.
Usually, the government will seize these assets right away in pill mill cases, and even if the trial ends with a not guilty verdict, the property isn’t returned. A lawyer can contest the forfeiture so the doctor doesn’t lose their assets.
Zoukis Consulting Group is Here to Help
Pill mill cases can be difficult to defend. Medical evidence is complicated, and medical professionals that stand accused are often tried by a judge and jury who have little medical knowledge.
If you’ve been accused of a pill mill crime, you need to hire a Zoukis Consulting Group lawyer for your defense. Our experienced attorneys can secure expert medical testimonies and witnesses to help you build your case. At the same time, we can protect your personal assets.
Contact Zoukis Consulting Group today to learn more about what we can do for you.
Published Feb 16, 2022 by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA | Last Updated by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA on Mar 16, 2022 at 9:24 pm