DEA Suboxone Audit: The Wait is Finally Over. Or Is It?

This story started for me almost a year ago: DEA On-Site Investigation of Suboxone Prescribing Physicians

Sometime late last year I wrote a letter to the Seattle field office asking to schedule my audit as soon as possible. I asked DEA to provide a detailed description of how they carry out the audit after serving an "administrative warrant" on a physician who refuses to sign Form 82, giving permission for the audit. After several months without a response it occurred to me to give the DEA a taste of their (it's?) own medicine. I had to be in the city early for an orchestra rehearsal anyway, so I made my own unannounced visit to the Seattle field office last spring.

When I entered the office I explained to the polite guard that I wanted to hand deliver a letter and that I wanted to dispose of some unused samples of modafinil I brought with me. He asked me whether I was carrying any explosive devices. Fortunately that day I had left my C-4, dynamite, and IED's at home. He asked whether I had an appointment. The answer of course was no. He asked whether the agents might know who I was. The answer of course was yes. Sitting in the waiting room I was struck by a wall covered by portraits of DEA agents who lost their lives in the line of duty. I trust none of the deaths occurred while auditing physicians trying to treat patients suffering from addictive diseases.

After a short wait a very attractive young woman entered the waiting room and asked me whether I might wait for agent Carter since chief agent Thomas was on vacation. When I asked agent Carter to please proceed with my audit, she explained this would not be possible and told me how to dispose of my drug samples.

Once more there was no response to my letter.

I was pleasantly surprised when, on September 29, agent Sanchez left a message on my voicemail asking me to call him back on his cell phone. I in turn left a message on his voicemail suggesting when he might reach a person by dialing my office number, but I did not hear from him until Friday, October 8. I was standing at the reception window talking to my office manager and agents Sanchez and Carter entered the waiting room, introduced themselves, and told us they were ready to perform my audit. I asked them whether they had a warrant. They said no. (If only I could have obtained a photograph of the look on their faces.) I explained to them that I wanted to know what would happen during an audit performed under administrative warrant. They asked me if I had not received a letter from the diversion office in Springfield. I explained that the letter I had received was woefully inadequate. I asked if they wanted to schedule an audit later, but they repeated the mantra that that doesn't fit with their policy. I pointed out that I had shared my buprenorphine prescribing log, which resides in Google Docs, with Agent Carter. They told me they are not allowed to access the Internet.  They left. I completely forgot to ask whether they were carrying explosives.

So I'm back to waiting and wondering what will happen next. It would have been so much easier for everyone concerned if they had only honored my request for a detailed explanation of how an audit is conducted under administrative warrant. But I hope without too much further delay to be able to provide a first-hand description.

As a taxpayer I'm really OK with DEA agents having access to the Internet. Maybe we could arrange for the FBI to monitor their use. Or maybe we could establish another agency. We could subject them to unannounced visits to audit their browser histories.

Next: The Audit

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