Florida has always been a hot spot in the nation’s ongoing opioid addiction crisis. Over 5,000 drug overdose deaths are reported in Florida each year, with about 70% of those deaths linked to opioids. Opioids include morphine, opium, oxycodone, heroin, codeine, fentanyl and other controlled substances that link with opioid receptors in the body’s nerve cells. Since opioids can both reduce pain and induce a feeling of euphoria in users, these “feel-good” characteristics make these drugs uniquely addictive and dangerous.

Another key distinction between opioids and other narcotics is that they are usually distributed – legally – in open sight at hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies. Not until the prescriptions are re-sold and dealt, or stolen from others, do they become “street drugs”. While pharmacies maintain strict quality-control measures to prevent illegal distribution of opioid medications, they have come under the spotlight for overly lax distribution of opioids in the past.

In March 2022, the State of Florida reached an $870 million settlement with CVS and drug manufacturers Teva and Allergan. The lawsuit alleged that the companies’ marketing and distribution of opioid products was connected to the rising opioid epidemic – along with countless overdoses and deaths. In May 2022, Walgreens reached a $683 settlement with Florida’s Attorney General in connection to the same case. Misuse, unethical distribution, and flawed prescription practices have made the opioid situation worse over the years and have brought even reputable chain pharmacies under the legal limelight.

When Local and Individual Healthcare Providers Can be Charged

High profile crackdowns such as these show how far Federal, State, and local prosecutors will take their fight to curb the opioid epidemic in Florida and elsewhere. In addition to targeting “Big Pharma” and distributors of opioids, law enforcement agencies can also target medical providers and doctor’s offices in efforts to cast as wide a net as possible. The U.S. Department of Justice states it is “committed to using every available tool to prevent overdose deaths and hold accountable those responsible for the opioid crisis.”

If an investigation into misuse or misdelivery of opioids leads to a Florida doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider, criminal prosecution is not off the table. While these individuals may have simply been providing medical care and pain management, their involvement with the transfer of opioid medications can put them at risk of civil and criminal liability in some instances.

Florida Statutes Sec. 456.44 sets standards for the prescription of acute pain medication such as opioids. Strict guidelines are to be followed in Florida for the control and prescription of painkillers that can lead to overdose. The rules set out in this section of Florida are detailed and exhaustive, but can benefit those who are later accused of mis-prescribing medications. Accurate record-keeping in accordance with Florida Statute Sec. 456.44 can describe all precautions taken when a painkiller was prescribed to an individual who later sold the drugs or overdosed.

The ramifications of a criminal investigation for overprescription or misprescription of controlled substances can be severe for a doctor or pharmacist. In addition to the potential for jail terms, court fines, and restitution costs, a provider can have their medical license stripped and their career ruined by a proven charge of mis-distributing opioids. If you are being investigated or charged with any type of violation regarding the transfer of controlled substances, you have no time to waste – contacting a skilled opioid defense attorney can make all the difference in the world.

Our Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyers at Trombley & Hanes Can Help Medical Professionals Fight Charges of Misconduct Regarding Opioid Prescriptions

The Tampa doctor & pharmacy opioid litigation lawyers of Trombley & Hanes, P.A., represent doctors and pharmacies facing criminal prosecutions and civil actions for prescribing or dispensing opioids. The firm’s attorneys are former prosecutors that are thoroughly familiar with the tactics law enforcement and prosecutors will use to obtain convictions or guilty pleas. Defendants in these cases have important rights and evidence of their own, and our attorneys can make their voices heard. Don’t hesitate to call our office at 813-229-7918, or complete an online questionnaire for a consultation to discuss any questions you might have.