DEA Audits: insensitivity and disrespect

Continued from: DEA On-Site Investigation of Suboxone Prescribing Physicians

Imagine you have lost almost everything because of addiction to OxyContin. You finally mustered the strength and nerve, overcoming fear and shame, and sat down in the waiting room of a physician who promises to treat you with buprenorphine to wrest you from withdrawal and clobber the cravings.

In walk two DEA agents.

DEA would have us believe they must surprise us with these audits, and yet I learned today that one physician asked that his audit be scheduled at his convenience, and now we all know to expect an audit. This situation could have been avoided.

An agent at the Seattle DEA office today refused to provide me a copy of the agreement I must sign at the start of the audit. But he told me I can get one from a colleague who has been audited already. And my tax money pays for this agency. He also told me these audits started in 2005 but ramped up more recently.

Is this the DEA's idea of a way to encourage more physicians to prescribe an effective treatment for opiate addiction?

Another scenario:

Into your office walk two people who claim to be DEA agents, present convincing (forged) credentials, and demand to inspect your supply of buprenorphine (and any other controlled substances you happen to stock). They claim because you are not in compliance they must confiscate the drugs. An hour later they have sold your drugs on the street.

By insisting on conducting these audits unannounced DEA has unwittingly set the stage for impostors to obtain more drugs illegally. What were they thinking? Were they thinking?

I discovered today that the American Psychiatric Association has contacted the ONDCP and the DEA. The American Society of Addiction Medicine is considering whether to take action.

DEA should stop these audits until they can propose a manner in which to conduct them that respects patient rights and is sensitive to medical practice.

Because of the risk of impostors, if someone appears in your office claiming to be a DEA agent, call your local DEA office, and ask for names or other information to verify they really do represent DEA. If you cannot reach DEA, consider contacting local police for assistance.

Call your local DEA office to request a copies of any agreements they may ask you to sign during an audit so you can review them with an attorney or colleague in advance. When I obtain a copy I will post it here.

If you are or have been audited, please share your experience with a comment.

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