I recently received an urgent call from a veterinarian that had surrendered his DEA license the day prior because of a surprise inspection (initiated by a disgruntled employee) that resulted in him being charged with a felony offense for not properly maintaining his controlled substance logs. This DVM Owner, who is in his early 40s, voluntarily surrendered his license and as – as you can imagine – is terrified about the future of his practice and ultimately his ability to be able to continue to practice veterinary medicine. His scheduled hearing is still more than a month away and during this time, he cannot prescribe, dispense or use controlled substances. Period! What would this look like in your practice? He has no associate veterinarians.
This call prompted me to prepare an article that discusses the importance of staying on top of the state and federal requirements that come with carrying a DEA License.
I am including the most recent copy of the DEA Practitioner’s Manual, courtesy of the United States Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of Diversion Control.
In addition, if you are a manager, owner and/or veterinarian, I have included recent veterinary specific DEA cases for your reading pleasure. My recommendation is that you read through these articles now and have an action plan mapped out for 2020 to make sure you are DEA compliant.
There is a veterinarian in a very tough place right now and I am hopeful none of you will ever be in his shoes.
Why You Should Never Voluntarily Surrender Your DEA License
The implications are frightening. Here’s an excerpt from DEA Registration Surrenders: Why You Shouldn’t Surrender Your DEA Registration, an article from the Chapman Law Group Health Care Attorneys website:
The story has been repeated thousands of times in recent history: An agent garbed in a DEA jacket arrives at your practice and begins asking you questions regarding your prescribing habits. Wishfully thinking that this is just a routine inspection, the practitioner dutifully answers all of the agent’s questions. At the end of the interview, the DEA agent informs the practitioner that he or she is “in big trouble” and that “practicing is the least of your concerns,” followed by “it would make it easier for you if you just voluntarily surrender your DEA registration.” The agent tells the practitioner that if you do not surrender your DEA registration, they will revoke it anyway as he or she shoves an innocuous looking voluntary surrender form and pen across the table.
Often confused, scared and fearing the consequences of the recent raid, inspection or interview, practitioners routinely sign their careers away with the stroke of a pen. Regardless of the magnitude of the investigation, this is the worst decision a practitioner could make. Taking legal advice from a DEA agent is like taking financial advice from a con man. The only hope is that, in those fleeting moments of clarity, you step away from the agent and call a health care law attorney skilled in DEA matters.
Reasons why you should not voluntarily surrender your DEA registration:
- Significant delays in the DEA adjudication process can benefit you by permitting you to practice pending the resolution of your DEA registration issue.
- Surrendering your DEA registration may trigger administrative action against other professional licenses such as your state medical or pharmacy license.
- You will likely be unable to reapply for a DEA registration.
Be sure and read the entire article, you need to know this before you find yourself in an unnerving situation.
Veterinary Practices Beware
In a recent American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) article, DEA issues new marching orders in the war against opioid addiction, there is a clear warning that the DEA is likely to increase their efforts to investigate veterinarians, often simply triggered by their Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS) database, which will alert them to unusual orders for controlled substances. This could be legitimate in some cases, but it may even be due to a simple supply and demand situation faced by many veterinary hospitals, who place the same order with several suppliers hoping to get one fulfilled. If multiple suppliers come through, suddenly it appears that the veterinary hospital has drastically increased their purchase of a controlled substance. It’s a red flag and immediate cause for the DEA to audit them. Be sure to read the entire article.
And don’t let complacency put you in danger. An April 2019 article in AAHA, Former-DEA agent: Veterinary Hospitals are “low-hanging fruit”, describes how veterinary hospitals have become an easy target as larger offenders are being cleaned up. Compliance with controlled substance laws has not always been a high priority with veterinary hospitals. Recordkeeping can be difficult with tight staffing and stuffed schedules. Completing records and reviewing for accuracy are often overlooked but the days of sliding by unnoticed are over. Database reviews have leveled the playing field and veterinary hospitals are just as vulnerable as human pharmacies and hospitals to close examination by the government. Be sure to read this full article, as well.
Scam That Targets Veterinarians
And if those real threats were not enough, there are scams afoot to defraud you as well. In the AAHA article DEA scam artists target veterinary by phone, fake ‘DEA agents’ are calling veterinary hospitals and accusing them of violations or pending investigations and demanding payment of fines. Some have even acquired information from the DEA ARCOS database and can reference specific orders and information about a practice, lending a sense of legitimacy to their demands. One way that veterinarians are more vulnerable than a human physician is because of their frequent direct ordering of medications, rather than the use of a second party pharmacy system. This article warns of the need to be vigilant against scams and not to panic if you receive a call.
Veterinarian Loses Everything:
And finally, things are grim for those who chronically fail to inventory, track and otherwise maintain proper compliance with controlled substances. And if there is any negligent or criminal activity involved, the consequences are dire. Loss of DEA and veterinary medicine licenses, huge fines and, likely, the loss of their practice and source of livelihood. This statement, released from the United States Attorney’s Office – District of Colorado, makes it very clear that non-compliance is not an option.
So please, educate yourself, devise a solid plan for DEA compliance, and take this worry off the table. Make 2020 a year to focus on success, not problems.