Criminal Defense Attorney Analysis of Internet Pharmacy, Prescription, and Drug Law

Doctor Pleads Guilty to Internet Pharmacy Prescriptions

Michael A. Flynn, D.O, of Pennsylvania, pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances via a number of internet pharmacy websites.  According to the DOJ’s press release, from January 1, 2007 through July 11, 2007:

Flynn, as a doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, conspired and agreed with Internet website owners, pharmacy owners and others to sell to individuals throughout the United States, and including in the Western District of Pennsylvania, highly addictive prescription drugs for no legitimate medical reason.  Flynn unlawfully distributed 6,090 dosage units of Phendimetrazine and Benzphetamine, Schedule III controlled substances; and 150,000 dosage units of Alprazolam, Diazepam, Phentermine, and Clonazepam, Schedule IV controlled substances.

During the period from January 2007 through July 2007, Flynn worked as a physician for various Internet websites that solicited individuals to purchase drugs using the sites.  Customers of the websites became members of the sites by filling out online medical questionnaires consisting of approximately twenty questions.  Flynn reviewed the questionnaires and issued prescriptions for highly addictive controlled substances based solely on the drugs requested in the questionnaires and for no legitimate medical reason.  Flynn ordered no diagnostic tests or medical treatment.  Flynn typically approved 60 to 500 orders per day, and on some days, approved up to 800 orders.  Flynn received thousands of dollars for the prescriptions issued during this period.

Generally, there isn’t much to say here that I haven’t said already.  You have read many of my criminal defense arguments against these online pharmacy indictments and convictions.  However, this press release contains an interesting tidbit:

Flynn issued the prescriptions solely for a fee and without regard to medical purpose.

I’m skeptical and would like to see the indictment and plea deal, but it seems that the DOJ decided to focus on the “legitimate medical purpose” language of the Code of Federal Regulations rather than “the usual course of professional practice” language.  Of course, available case law and the DEA Guidelines do not distinguish between the two.  Nonetheless, was this unintentional or was this an attempt to refrain from debating the ambiguous, unclear doctor-patient relationship and physical examination issue that comes with the latter language?  My guess is that it was unintentional, given that what constitutes a legitimate medical purpose is no more clear than the usual course of professional practice.  More importantly, focusing on the legitimate medical purpose does not avoid the doctor-patient relationship debate at all.  In fact, it might make a criminal defendant’s case even easier, in my opinion.  I will focus on this issue soon.

The content on this post does not constitute legal advice and is for informational purposes only.  You should not act upon the information presented on this website without seeking the advice of legal counsel.  Should you wish to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney knowledgeable in internet pharmacy, prescription, and drug law, please feel free to contact me directly.

Category: Court Cases DEA Doctors Online Consultations Pharmacies Website Owners

Tags: Doctors, Internet Pharmacy Law, Plea