July 24, 2014
Yesterday a Long Island doctor was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his egregious Oxycodone distribution. The DEA and Federal United States Attorney (Eastern District) built a case against the doctor characterizing him as a "drug dealer", as follows -

At trial, the government’s evidence established that Stambler provided prescriptions for hundreds of oxycodone pills to two of his patients without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the course of a professional medical practice, and also conspired with those patients and assisted them in the sale of pills that he prescribed. On November 21, 2011, investigators with the DEA Task Force observed Stambler driving his patient, Christopher Adams, to a pharmacy in East Rockaway, New York, where Stambler and Adams filled a prescription that Stambler had written in the name of Adams’s girlfriend, Nancy Cook. As investigators watched, Stambler then drove Adams to a nearby location to meet with a third individual where some of the oxycodone pills were exchanged for cash. Investigators stopped Stambler’s vehicle shortly after the drug deal. On a separate occasion, Stambler drove Cook, who was also Stambler’s patient, to a home in East Rockaway where she sold oxycodone pills to the same individual involved in the November 21, 2011, drug deal. Both Adams and Cook testified at trial about Stambler’s participation in the drug transactions as well as their own destructive addiction to oxycodone.

Why highlight the sentencing of a doctor who did not have enough support for his practice to avoid such significant ramifications?  Well, it is sometimes through the most egregious examples we can learn simple tips to help those of us trying to be compliant.  Here, clearly the highlighted conduct is so far outside the realm of acceptable, comment is not necessary.  However, review of distribution and prescribing of controlled substances is a hot topic on regulator's minds at the moment, which means we should all look to better our documentation habits and protections in place. 

A simple way to start is to address safeguards in place for controlled substances. For more on safeguarding controlled substances, visit our prior newsletter.   In addition to safeguarding actual stock of controlled substances, now is the time to address any potential documentation deficiencies you may have related to medical necessity and prescribing or distribution of controlled substances.  Unfortunately we live in a time where if you did not document it, it didn't happen - the patient did not present with the complaint, you did not perform adequate examination, you did not evidence proper evaluation, and your course of treatment was not substantiated.  Lastly, do not forget to abide by any requirements for checking any online registry prior to prescribing controlled substances (if applicable) (absolutely applicable if you practice in NY), and do not forget to document!

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