Drug Diversion in Health Care

Prescription Drug Capsules

Drug diversion is defined as the misappropriation of prescription medication without legal authorization. It also is referred to as medication/prescription diversion and opioid diversion.

The most common examples are when a physician writes a prescription for narcotics without a legitimate medical necessity, or when a nurse (RN, LPN or NP) diverts medication from a Pyxis machine.

Drug diversion allegations are very serious and can lead to criminal charges if state or federal authorities are contacted. Several state and federal investigators are charged with combating drug diversion, including:

  • Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA)
  • Florida Department of Health (DOH)
  • DEA Office of Diversion Control
  • Michigan State Police Narcotics Enforcement Teams
  • Florida Drug Enforcement Strike Force
  • Florida Department of Law Enforcement

State Drug Diversion Investigations by LARA and DOH

If an allegation of drug diversion is referred to your state licensing board (i.e., Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing, Board of Pharmacy), an investigator will be assigned to your case.

The investigator will likely call you after he/she has completed their investigation of the allegations of drug diversion/stealing drugs. Do not meet with the state investigator without an attorney qualified to handle complex drug diversion allegations.

After the state investigator concludes their investigation, the case may either be referred to local police, the Michigan State Police, the Florida State Police or the Attorney General’s office for criminal charges.

Regardless of whether the state desires to pursue criminal charges, the investigation will also be forwarded to your licensing board to determine if a formal complaint will be issued.

If a formal complaint is filed accusing you of drug diversion, your case will then follow the formal administrative complaint process.

Chart of the Administrative Complaint Process for Florida

Chart of the Administrative Complaint Process for Michigan

Federal DEA Drug Diversion Investigations

The DEA Office of Diversion Control was set up to combat serious cases of drug diversion against physicians, pharmacists, mid-level providers and nurses. The DEA investigates and assists the Department of Justice in indicting these professionals for criminal drug diversion in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.

When the DEA concludes its investigation, the DOJ will determine if federal prosecution is appropriate or whether to defer to state prosecutors or the state licensing board.

When the DEA investigates diversion, they often send undercover officers or patients to the practice or pharmacy to attempt to obtain narcotics for “other than legitimate medical need.” Sometimes they approach patients and attempt to coerce cooperation and have them visit the practice while being recorded.

After they establish their case, the DEA will raid a practice or pharmacy in cooperation with local authorities and the FBI. This will result in negative media coverage of the practice.

During the raid, they always attempt to obtain a “statement” from providers in the practice or pharmacy. Do not make a statement to DEA agents without the advice and assistance of a knowledgeable diversion defense attorney.

Generally, by the time the practice is raided, the DEA and the DOJ have obtained enough evidence to charge the physicians, nurses, pharmacists and mid-level providers at the practice, and an indictment may already be issued but will remain under seal.

When faced with drug diversion allegations, it is crucial that you obtain a qualified attorney at the first hint that you are under investigation. That’s because by the time you realize that you are under investigation, you may have already been charged.

Statements Made to Investigators Regarding Drug Diversion

Even if you do not face criminal charges, your case may be referred to a prosecutor during or after state licensing proceedings.

Criminal charges stemming from drug diversion/stealing drugs are very common. Health care professionals need to be cautious when responding to a state letter of investigation for drug diversion-related allegations.

Any statements you make to a state licensing investigator can subsequently be used against you for criminal charges.

How the Healthcare Law Attorneys at Chapman Law Group Can Help Medical Professionals in Michigan and Florida

Our attorneys at Chapman Law Group have represented countless physicians, pharmacists and nurses in a wide range of drug diversion allegations — from multiple count federal indictments to minor licensing infractions.

We assist health providers at all stages of the drug diversion case, including representing providers when speaking to investigators, defending providers in board hearings and administrative hearings, dissolving license suspensions, and fighting referrals to impairment programs (HPRP, IPN and PRN).

We also work with health providers accused of drug diversion by an employer, by working with the employer to resolve the allegations before they are reported to the board.

Our goal is to fight allegations as early as possible to prevent formal action and discipline. Often, we can have the allegations of drug diversion dismissed at the investigation level if we are contacted before the provider speaks with the investigator. We also have obtained dismissals of formal complaints and dissolved suspension orders — leading to retention of professional licenses.

We represent licensed medical professionals, including:

Each lawyer in our professional licensing defense practice group works with physicians, nurses, pain management clinics, pharmacists and other licensed healthcare professionals. We serve clients in Michigan (Detroit, Troy, Dearborn, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Lansing) and Florida (Miami, West Palm Beach, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville).

If you have been accused of diverting drugs, contact us immediately.

Need an Attorney? Contact us now!

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