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State medical board investigation leads to loss of DEA license

Regulations require physicians have a special license to prescribe controlled substances. The physician who wishes to offer these services to patients must generally receive a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration. Getting such a license generally involves completing requirements that can vary by state. The process is often connected to the state medical license.

A recent case provides an example of how fragile this license can be.

A Twitter battle prompts an investigation

This case involves two individuals who crossed paths online. The two had never met. One, a mother who advocates for the dangers of drug addiction after losing her son to an overdose and the other a physician who works to squash misconceptions about use of opioids for pain management. Both often used Twitter to share the viewpoints.

The mother took issue with some of the physician’s claims that the majority of opioid users do not develop addiction. She filed a complaint with his state medical board.

Board investigates, requests doctor surrenders his license

The compliant triggered an investigation which ultimately resulted in the board requesting the physician surrender his license to prescribe controlled substances. A representative of the state’s medical board asked the physician to sign a form stating he would surrender the license. He claims the representative did not disclose the form also included language that was an admission of a crime. He is currently fighting against this claim and to regain his license.

Unfortunately, the board’s request for a DEA license surrender is not uncommon. According to a DEA spokesman, the agency had 818 voluntary surrenders in 2018.

Lessons for physicians, know when to get legal counsel

Ideally, the physician would have had legal representation present during his meeting with the member from the board. This would have likely resulted in a review and discussion of the provisions within the document, mitigating the risk of any surprises — such as the admission of criminal conduct that was included in the document in this case.

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