DEA disciplines Fla. physicians; state allows them to continue practicing

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Writing for Health News Florida, Brittany Davis shows the importance of following up on a disciplined caregivers story. In February, the DEA released the names of 32 Florida doctors whose prescriptions, they say, were fueling the state’s notorious pill mills. The DEA suspended the narcotics licenses of those doctors at the time.

In her follow-up, Davis finds that at least four of the physicians are still practicing, five have been arrested, at least 12 have shuttered or moved their practices, and a full two dozen still have clear Florida medical licenses despite the federal action. The disconnect between state and federal agencies, she found, may come down to simple communication problems.

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Photo by somegeekintn via Flickr.

[DEA spokesman David Melenkevitz] said the DEA focuses on enforcement, not outreach, and may not necessarily pass on its findings to the [state Department of Health].

“We’re a federal agency and they’re a state agency,” he said. “We work together but operate separately.”

Pat Castillo, of the United Way Broward County Commission on Drug Abuse, said she is “concerned about the disconnect” between the DEA and the DOH.

She’d like to find a way to fill in the gap and help patients get the most updated information on whether their doctors have been in trouble, she said.

“If their DEA licenses are taken away, certainly that’s a red flag,” Castillo said. “Having that kind of information is critical.”

A spokesperson for the state’s Department of Health said that the agency may not “know about the DEA suspensions, or the agency may be conducting its own investigation.”

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