HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

DOJ Overcriminalization: Prosecuting Physicians

Cathleen London (University of Maine), DOJ Overcriminalization: Prosecuting Physicians, SSRN (2022):

The primary narrative directing opioid policy is that the overdose epidemic is driven by clinician overprescribing, creating patient addicts. This has led to draconian laws and the use of invasive prescription monitoring programs that have harmed chronic pain patients throughout the country. The black box algorithms mine data and have never been subjected to independent verification. Patients and prescribers alike are flagged as suspicious. Although opioid prescribing has dropped dramatically since the introduction of prescription monitoring, overdose deaths have risen exponentially, driven by the illicit fentanyl market. Despite this, law enforcement continues to focus on the diversion of prescription medication. The drug prohibition policy set by the Department of Justice (DOJ) is a misguided attempt to address skyrocketing opioid overdoses. It is their way of trying to fix the issue which was the unchecked distribution of opioids. The blame for that falls on the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), Congress and lobbyists. This focus on limiting the prescribing of legal opioids has led to an increasingly lethal illicit opiate supply. The DOJ continues to erroneously cite diversion of licit legitimate prescriptions of opioids as the problem. As a result, doctors have been imprisoned for terms ranging from twenty years to life without parole, all for practicing medicine. Others have had their careers and reputations irreparably harmed.

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