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Issuing a Prescription for a Controlled Substance

Medical professionals in California have the power to prescribe some of the most dangerous drugs on the market to the people who need them. With this power, though, comes the responsibility to abide by numerous state and federal laws and regulations. Failing to abide by them all can lead to serious criminal allegations, particularly now that prosecutors are being pressured to investigate the sources of the opioid crisis.

If you are a doctor or can issue prescriptions for controlled substances in the state of California, you can run afoul of state law quickly and without knowing it. The help and advice of a drug defense attorney, like William Kroger in Los Angeles, can help you understand the minefield of issuing prescriptions in the state. If you have already been charged for violating the law, he can also help you defend against the allegations.

Unlawful Prescriptions

Like many laws, the California rules dictating how prescriptions for controlled substances can be issued in the state uses a broad rule, and then lots of exceptions. The broad rule in this context is California Health and Safety Code 11152, which prohibits writing, issuing, filling, compounding, or dispensing a prescription “that does not conform” to the law.

To issue a valid prescription in California, therefore, you have to follow all of the rules that have been laid out. Violating any one of them can lead to sanctions and potentially even criminal charges.

Who can Issue Prescriptions?

One of the main limitations that California law puts on prescriptions is who can issue them. Under California Health and Safety Code 11150, the people who have the power to issue a prescription for controlled substances are limited to:

  • Physicians
  • Dentists
  • Podiatrists
  • Veterinarians.

Additionally, the following people can issue a valid prescription, so long as they are in compliance with certain rules in their own fields:

  • Naturopathic doctors
  • Pharmacists
  • Registered nurses
  • Certified nurse-midwives
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Physician assistants
  • Optometrists
  • Out-of-state prescribers.

Anyone who falls outside these sets of people is not allowed to issue a prescription in California, at all.

Licensed and Unlicensed Medical Professionals

Only licensed medical professionals can issue a prescription under California law. However, there are small exceptions for board-registered graduates who are in approved programs, even if they are still unlicensed in California. Under California Business and Professional Code 2065, these graduates can issue prescriptions, but they can only be filled in a pharmacy maintained in the hospital that employs the graduate.

Legitimate Medical Purpose Required

Perhaps the most important and stringent requirement for issuing a prescription in California is Health and Safety Code 11153, which requires all prescriptions to be issued for a “legitimate medical purpose.”

What constitutes a “legitimate medical purpose” depends on the circumstances of your case. However, California law recognizes that doctors issuing prescriptions can do so to either treat someone's medical condition or to perform research. If the prescription is being issued for either of these reasons and that reason is legitimate, then the prescription will be valid so long as it does not violate other rules or regulations.

A legitimate medical purpose cannot be served when the prescription for a controlled substance is given to a patient that is not under the doctor's care or supervision. Therefore, California Health and Safety Code 11154(a) prohibits this, unless the practice of prescribing drugs in this way is within the doctor's regular practice.

Prescriptions in the Usual Course of Business

In addition to the requirement that there be a legitimate medical purpose for a prescription, California Health and Safety Code 11153 also requires that the prescription comes in the usual course of a medical professional's business. This requirement is meant to prohibit prescriptions from being handed off the cuff, in informal settings, or without seeing a patient beforehand.

Importantly for medical professionals aiming to stay within the law, this regulation is explicitly violated when you issue a prescription to a drug addict outside of a course of medical treatment or drug program, for the purpose of keeping that addict comfortable by feeding their drug habit.

Entire Supply Chain Regulated

California's rules and regulations on issuing prescriptions for controlled substances do not just target the doctors and medical professionals who actually write the prescriptions – they also regulate the wholesalers and manufacturers of controlled substances, as well.

California Health and Safety Code 11153.5 prohibits these companies, as well as their employees and other agents, from furnishing controlled substances to medical professionals or others if they knew or consciously disregarded the fact that the drugs were being distributed in violation of the law.

Penalties for Illegal Prescriptions

Medical professionals who issue prescriptions in violation of the law of California can face a variety of consequences if they are convicted of illegally prescribing controlled substances.

The legal consequences of a conviction are harsh: under California Health and Safety Code 11153(b), you can face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $20,000 for writing illegal prescriptions for controlled drugs.

The collateral consequences of a conviction for this crime – the consequences that are not always required under state law and that are enforced by other parties, including companies and private people – are also serious. Perhaps the most serious is the surrender of your right to prescribe controlled substances in the future. This drastically implicates your ability to return to the medical profession if you were ever convicted for illegally issuing a prescription.

Drug Defense Lawyer in Los Angeles: William Kroger

Defending against a criminal allegation that you violated the law and illegally issued a prescription in California is essential because the penalties can change the course of your life. This is why it is so important to hire a drug defense attorney like Los Angeles' William Kroger. He can help you defend against criminal charges of illegal prescription writing or can consult with you to ensure that you stay on the right side of the law as you practice medicine in the state.

Call the Los Angeles law office of William Kroger at 323-655-5700 or contact him online.

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