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Drug crime of unlawful prescriptions charged against physician

It is no longer unusual to see authorities charge a practicing physician with drug charges. Such cases usually concern the alleged illegal writing of prescriptions for controlled drugs, although some cases also involve the doctor's personal addiction. In a recent California arrest and prosecution, a doctor from Ranch Palos Verdes is accused of the drug crime of writing illegal prescriptions for controlled drugs to undercover agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

He is charged with 21 felony counts of unlawful controlled substance prescription. The essence of the charges is that he allegedly made out the prescriptions without having established a medical need to do so. The prescriptions involved Norco, a pain medication; Xanax, a tranquilizer; and Soma, a muscle relaxant.

It is alleged that he wrote the unnecessary prescriptions over a three-month period without conducting a medical examination, taking vital signs or completing any medical charts. He allegedly asked the agents to bring in prior medical charts and X-rays to justify the prescriptions. One agent allegedly brought in an X-ray of a dog's chest.

Sometimes there is a grey area in this kind of a prosecution where it is difficult to say where treatment leaves off and criminal intent takes over. The facts alleged here seem to indicate the possibility of one or more potential defenses. For example, it is difficult to say what tests a doctor can take to justify prescribing a pill like Xanax.

Many doctors in California and elsewhere, including psychiatrists, routinely prescribe such tranquilizers without conducting detailed medical examinations. Taking a case history from the patient can be arguably satisfactory for the prescription of certain medications under various circumstances. Additionally, the defendant requested prior medical records so that, along with the reasons given by the supposed patient, there was arguably an established basis for the prescriptions. Additionally, the reported facts do not necessarily indicate that the defendant was gaining any significant monetary benefit from these activities, thus indicating a critical lack of criminal intent. Depending on the ultimate facts of the case, an experienced criminal defense attorney may find some strong defenses to these potentially questionable drug crime charges.

Source: Palos Verdes, CA Patch, "RPV Doctor Arrested in Prescription Drug Abuse Case", Paige Austin, July 1, 2015

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