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Opioid prescriptions: Why physicians need be wary.

A recent report from the New York State Health Foundation has confirmed a link between payment to doctors from pharmaceutical companies and an increase in the rate of opioid prescriptions. The research included a review of data from 2013 to 2015. During this time, the report states pharmaceutical companies provided over $3.5 million in payments to New York physicians.

The findings are not novel. The practice of physicians accepting payments from pharmaceutical companies is not always illegal. However, the study is important because the government continues to ramp up prosecution of physicians who are accused of abusing the system.

Why does this report matter? The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has aggressively pursued allegations of physicians crossing the line that separates legal and illegal relationships with pharmaceutical companies. The agency has pushed for some physicians to give up their ability to prescribe medications, effectively surrendering their ability to practice medicine in the future. Why? Because most physician positions come with the requirement that the medical professional can prescribe medications.

The agency's crackdown has been successful. According to the most recent available data, the DEA encouraged the surrender of 3,679 prescribing licenses throughout the nation between 2011 and 2015 and revoked an additional 99 such licenses.

What happens when the government accuses a physician of breaking the law? Government accusations can lead to an investigation. The investigation may include the use of a form given to the physician that states the physician agrees to surrender his or her right to prescribe medications as well as evidence to support the government's allegations of criminal activity.

It is important to take prompt and proactive action if the subject of such an investigation. Signing the form noted above can result in a permanent revocation of the ability to prescribe medications. Evidence gathered through the investigation can support criminal charges and criminal charges could lead to trial. As such, those facing such allegations are wise to begin building a defense to help better ensure their legal rights are protected.

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