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
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