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MBN Targeting Medical Professionals

Posted: 07-Jun-2017

Clarion Ledger (Jackson) - On May 17, 2017, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Director John M. Dowdy, Jr announced a stunning change in the bureau’s interpretation of opioid prescribing laws and regulations, which will significantly ratchet up prosecution of medical professionals.

During a press conference, Dowdy confidently declared, "If we find out that your prescription habits are causing addiction problems, we’ll come find you." Dowdy continued, "If we have overdose deaths related to your prescribing habits, let this serve as notice to the healthcare professionals in this state, we’re not playing around anymore.”  Dowdy reiterated that “opioid … enforcement efforts will be focused on prescribers.” U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) Assistant Special Agent in Charge Danny Comeaux’s commented in a news release was even more vitriolic, characterizing some prescribers as “drug dealers, cloaked in lab coats…pushing this poison into our communities.”...

... The MBN, however, now seems focused on healthcare professionals. Until now, prescribers have typically faced criminal scrutiny only for prescribing controlled substances to persons with whom they had no formal, documented patient relationship, or in circumstances where the patient encounters were a sham. Dowdy’s comments, however, make clear that the MBN is expanding the scope of its criminal investigations into circumstances where a true doctor-patient relationship exists. Neither Dowdy nor Comeaux explained exactly where or how they intend to draw the line between criminal behavior and the exercise of appropriate medical judgment. Even more problematic from the perspective of medical professionals is the idea that a police officer – not a qualified physician - might make this determination without the benefit of sufficient medical expertise. Without more information from MBN and DEA, legitimate healthcare professionals are left to wonder exactly who will determine whether their “prescribing habits” are illegal. The notion that a prescriber might be criminally liable if a patient develops an addiction to opioids, or even dies from an overdose, will dramatically affect how prescribers choose to exercise their best medical judgment. This results-based approach to enforcing criminal laws against medical professionals is apparently going to take place while the DEA continues to authorize drug manufacturers to produce, promote and sell opioids...

...Whether a prescriber is visited by a licensure investigator, MBN agent and/or DEA agent, the response should always be the same: be polite but quiet. Do not interfere with the service of a subpoena or the execution of a search warrant. State only that you intend to be cooperative, take a deep breath and call a lawyer that handles criminal healthcare matters while the investigators are at your office.


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