13AMGA.ORG JUNE 2019
The protracted, rapidly escalating opioid epidemic presents a critical challenge to medical practices. Physicians are afraid that if they prescribe a certain way, they
could be criminally prosecuted, lose their medical license, and face a medical malpractice suit.
These concerns are so real that some medical
practices have stopped prescribing opioids and
refer patients who need these prescription drugs
to pain management specialists.
These fears are not unfounded.
If a physician prescribes in a way that violates
federal law, criminal charges could follow,
potentially leading to incarceration. These are
rare cases, but they do occur. For example, in
Kansas, a physician was given a life sentence. 1
(See “A Worst-Case Scenario.”)
While not an opioid, marijuana also poses a
potential risk to physicians who prescribe it for
pain relief. In recent years, many states have
enacted laws permitting medicinal prescription
of marijuana just as a handful of jurisdictions
have authorized marijuana use for recreational
purposes. Such laws directly conflict with the
Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which provides that marijuana is a Schedule I drug that
has no accepted medical use and may not be
prescribed, dispensed, or administered. Only
the U.S. attorney general has authority under
the Act to classify a controlled substance in
consultation with the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. The U.S.
Navigating the legal minefield
created by the opioid crisis
By Rich Cahill, Esq.