DEA Suboxone Audit: Worst Experience of My Career as a Physician

Continued from: DEA Suboxone Audit Update VI

You prescribe Suboxone. You know a DEA agent will "unexpectedly" appear in your waiting room to audit your records of treatment of opiate addicted patients under DATA 2000. You figure you have done nothing wrong, so why worry? It couldn't be too bad. I'll deal with it when it happens.

That's what our colleague assumed, until a woman and a man claiming to be DEA agents appeared in his office.

It wasn't the first time they had staked out his office. Since they hope to catch physicians in the act of committing unspeakable narcotics crimes, these dedicated public servants eschew appointments. This also affords them the luxury of a morning or afternoon where "work" on the taxpayer's dimes consists of traveling to a doctor's office, discovering the doctor is out, and then what? Maybe a doughnut and a cup of coffee. Hazardous duty in law enforcement. Of course now and then these intrepid guardians of public safety will face an evil physician, risking life and limb to audit records of buprenorphine prescriptions.

Having already wasted one trip these lions of law enforcement pounced on this wayward health care provider with claws bared. First they sat in the waiting room discussing his case in front of his patients. One of the patients left without seeing the doctor. Then they asked him to sign a form permitting them to proceed with the "audit."

"You don't have to sign it doc. We can come back with a search warrant."

He signed.

They cleverly engaged him in casual conversation, ensnaring the unwitting villain. Then they showed him the water board. Just kidding.

The doctor described the agents' approach as hostile and intimidating, treating him like a criminal. He told me it was the worst experience of his career. Good work, agents. We can all sleep better knowing these guardians of public safety will protect us from all those dangerous docs trying to help people recover from substance use disorders.

The physician has hired an attorney and was told to expect an "exit interview."

The DEA has little cause for worry. Most doctors are too afraid to rock anybody's boat to even speak out, much less take action, and besides, if they put the other guy out of business, it means more patients for the rest of us!

Above all, remember that treating opiate addicts with buprenorphine results in less diversion of pharmaceutical opiates and in a reduced market for heroin, both major threats to job security for DEA workers. And some of us addiction docs actually were naive enough to think that law enforcement was on our side in the war on drugs.

If you believe our law enforcement agents can make more of a difference by chasing criminals instead of doctors, demand that professional associations like ASAM, AMA, AAAP and APA take action. Write your legislators and your local DEA field office.

DEA Suboxone Audits: The Video

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