In December 2008, I reported on an internet pharmacy case, in which Colorado doctor Christian Hageseth was being prosecuted for “practicing medicine without a license in California.” The charge stemmed from a 2005 prescription (Prozac) issued to Stanford student John McKay via USAnewRx.com, an online pharmacy. McKay later committed suicide. Last week Hageseth pled no contest and will be sentenced on April 17.
Hageseth’s case presented a number of interesting legal issues. Most importantly, it involved the issue of jurisdiction. Specifically, is a licensed Colorado physician who e-prescribes medication to individuals in California from his Colorado home or office “practicing medicine in California?” Hageseth had unsuccessfully argued that the Court lacked jurisdiction in a pretrial motion. Had he not pled guilty, it would have been interesting to see what a jury might say.
A requirement that physicians must be licensed in the state in which the patient is located conflicts with the need for telemedicine, which is undeniably needed (especially in rural areas). Keep in mind that even Medicare and Medicaid are encouraging the use of telemedicine and e-prescriptions. Although I doubt it will happen, hopefully this Administration can work on developing a more coherent medical system in which licensing requirements and the need for telemedicine can coexist. That sounds like a lot to ask for, however. The Ryan Haight Act is evidence enough that the federal government might not be the best body to regulate the practice of medicine.
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 lawyer knowledgeable in prescription, drug and internet pharmacy law, including the Controlled Substances Act, the Ryan Haight Act amendment and Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act violations, please feel free to contact me directly.