Written by attorney Jeffrey C. Grass

DEA Registration - To Surrender or Not Surrender?

Healthcare practitioners, pharmacies and hospitals require a registration number from the DEA. Without this registration number, the practitioner, pharmacy or hospital is removed from professional practice. When the DEA suspects a violation of its rules it will ask you to surrender it. Do you?The Law Office of Jeffrey C. Grass has been defending physicians, clinics, pharmacists and pharmacies in federal DEA Administrative Hearings since 1993. These hearings are complex and are convened when the DEA Diversion Control Division seeks an Emergency Suspension Order ("ESO") immediately suspending a registrant's ability to prescribe or distribute controlled substances; or, an Order to Show Cause ("OSC") as to why an application for a DEA Registration should be denied or an existing DEA Registration should be revoked. These hearings are presided over by federal DEA Administrative Law Judges assigned to the DEA in Arlington, Virginia. They are held pursuant to the federal Administrative Procedure Act. In our years of experience, we have witnessed that the loss of a DEA Registration can mark the end of a physician's, clinic's, pharmacist's or pharmacy's ability to practice. Moreover, loss of one's DEA Registration can be reported to state licensing boards as evidence of misconduct leading to the suspension or revocation of one's professional license as well. At a minimum, loss of a DEA Registration can affect the practitioner's ability to receive reimbursements from both state and federal Medicaid/Medicare programs as well as private insurance programs and limit their scope of practice or business. The concern over the future of a physician's, clinic's, pharmacist's or pharmacy's DEA Registration can be identified when a multiagency task force descends upon a clinic or pharmacy. Representatives of the multiagency task force will include state medical boards, pharmacy boards, DEA Diversion Control and state and local law enforcement agencies. Often these visits will be called "inspections" or site "visits." However, they are often really raids for the purpose of search and seizure or arrest. Cause for these raids arises when an investigation is opened based on one or more complaints that have been received from patients, next of kin of patients or pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors who keep track of the narcotics they sell and to whom they are sold. Such attention is particularly true of narcotics and other medications that are routinely over-prescribed and abused, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, Soma, Percocet, Xanax, Promethazine cough syrup and other similar medications. Pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors will usually report a pharmacy or physician that orders and distributes a larger than usual amount of any of these drugs to its patients and customers. Once your DEA registration number has been suspended, any narcotics and other controlled substance cannot remain in your possession or on the premises. Therefore, the DEA will seize them all and take them away. This could mean the loss of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of medications. Usually, the DEA Diversion Investigators ("DIs") will ask that you "voluntarily" give up your DEA Registration. They will have a form already prepared for you to sign. They will advise you that you can always apply for a new registration and that it would look better for you if you voluntarily gave up your registration now. DO NOT VOLUNTARILY SURRENDER YOUR DEA REGISTRATION! Voluntary surrender of your DEA Registration is tantamount to an admission of misconduct and will be treated virtually the same as if your DEA Registration had been revoked. Once you make such an admission, it is exceedingly rare to successfully obtain a new DEA registration number. Likewise, the Medical Board and Pharmacy Board accompanying the DEA on these outings will ask that you "voluntarily" relinquish or give up your medical or pharmacy license. They too will have a voluntary relinquishment form already prepared for you to sign. DO NOT SIGN THIS EITHER! State Officials will advise you that you can always apply to get a new license later. However, just as with a DEA Registration, it is rare that a new professional license would be granted after you have given one up under these circumstances. Since a voluntary relinquishment of a DEA Registration is being treated similarly to a revocation, it will be reported to the NPDB and/or the HIPDB. Likewise, you will be reported to any other states where you are licensed and hospitals where you have medical staff privileges. Also, the Office of the Inspector General ("OIG") will commence proceedings to suspend and then exclude you from eligibility to bill and receive Medicare payments. If excluded from the Medicare Program, you will also be automatically barred or excluded from participation in all other federal government programs for which you may be eligible either personally or professionally. Proceedings will be commenced to suspend or exclude you from the state Medicaid Program, as well. Contact our law firm to assist you in managing, appealing, and disclosing these reports to other agencies and entities. If you are faced with this crisis, immediately call the Law Office of Jeffrey C. Grass while the task force is present in your clinic or pharmacy. You have a right to confer with your lawyer. Our firm is particularly well suited to handle such cases since our staff and attorneys are well versed in both health law and criminal law. Therefore, we are able to respond to both allegations of the threat to the public interest as well as criminal allegations of violating state and federal controlled substances laws. Consequently, we are frequently employed by physicians and pharmacists throughout the country.

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