Magazine article Medical Economics

Attorneys: Be Very Cautious When Prescribing Painkillers

Magazine article Medical Economics

Attorneys: Be Very Cautious When Prescribing Painkillers

Article excerpt

LAW ENFORcEMENT

Use caution when prescribing painkillers, say criminal defense attorneys who have represented physicians charged with overprescribing.

Hsiu-Ying "Lisa" Tseng, DO, of the Los Angeles, California, suburb of Rowland Heights was arrested in March and charged with second-degree murder following the prescription drug overdose deaths of three patients in their 20s. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 45 years to life.

Michael J. Khouri, JD, a former Orange County, California, assistant district attorney now specializing in defending physicians against criminal charges, recommends that physicians give patients a small prescription for the lowest- dose painkiller necessary and then refer them to specialists. "Make sure you have an internal policy for prescribing controlled substances," he adds.

Health maintenance organization insurance plans often require a primary care physician (PCP) to see a patient before referring to a specialist, creating a dilemma for the PCP, Khouri says.

Most physicians who are the subjects of overprescribing investigations are solo doctors or the only physician working in a clinic, says George F. Indest III, JD, MPA, LLM, owner of the Health Law Firm in Altamonte Springs, Florida. "If you are going to practice any pain management, it is recommended that you do so in a group practice or institutional setting," Indest says.

Indest has represented several physicians charged with overprescribing. In almost every case, the Drug Enforcement Administration, state or local health departments, or local law enforcement used undercover agents posing as patients to record the physician encounters secretly. …

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