Prescription medication is rapidly developing. Doctors want to use the best in science and medicine to help their patients. One of the negative effects of modern medicine is the patient's potential addiction to prescribed drugs resulting in criminal charges. Today it is not just the illegal prescription drug user who is prosecuted; everyone involved in the distribution of controlled substances faces potential criminal liability.
The federal government recognizes that prescription drugs can be addictive and dangerous. The government also knows that people who become addicted may shop doctors and pharmacies to get the drugs. For these reasons, doctors and pharmacists can be the target of investigations involving the unlawful distribution of controlled substances. These types of cases are generally federally prosecuted as violations of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) which allows doctors to prescribe controlled substances so long as they are within the course of a professional practice and for legitimate medical purposes. Pharmacists are held to a similar standard for dispensing under 21 C.F.R. § 1306.04(a). Federal prosecutors have also targeted marketers and logistical supply chains who have made the prescription drugs available in violation of The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008.
While a person who unlawfully possesses a prescription drug may be changed with a felony in the State of Nebraska, those responsible for distribution are often prosecuted for crimes in federal court. The federal indictments often allege more than just unlawful distribution of drugs and may include charges of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute prescription drugs, money laundering, and wire or mail fraud.
Often doctors are investigated for prescription drug crimes when their practice involves large quantities of controlled substances and excessive numbers of prescriptions and patients. There are several other factors that may be considered as well, but it appears that a high volume medical practice is one of the factors considered during an investigation.
Similarly, pharmacists who fill a high volume of controlled substances as opposed to other medications may be suspicious to law enforcement. Internet pharmacies are especially suspicious to law enforcement. Not only have internet pharmacies been criminally charged for distributing controlled substances, but also the companies who played a role in the supply chain.
It is not just hidden internet services such as Silk Road that are prosecuted for marketing and selling controlled substances on the internet. Federal prosecutors have also pursued large companies in the supply chain who have not hidden their identities.
For example, a major search engine company that was allowing internet pharmacies to do Pay Per Click advertising for search terms associated with the sale of controlled substances over the internet was accused of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.
In another example, delivery company Fed Ex was federally indicted for its role in shipping packages that contained the controlled substances from on-line pharmacies and other distributors of controlled substances. The government alleged several violations including money laundering and a drug distribution conspiracy.
While fraud and associated crimes have always been common in the distribution and sales of controlled substances, the emerging prosecution of doctors, pharmacists, and those who assist in the distribution is growing. The war on prescription drugs is not just against the person abusing prescription medication, but everyone involved in the distribution of that controlled substance.