Does the DEA Use Intimidation Tactics to Force Doctors and Pharmacists to Give up Their DEA Number?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to crackdown, at least in Florida, on physicians and pharmacists suspected of prescribing and dispensing narcotics.  We believe this effort is a continuation of the campaign against "pill mills" and the pharmacies that fill prescriptions written by them.

However, just because you are not a pain management physician or pharmacist and you don't write a lot of prescriptions for narcotics, does not mean you cannot be targeted by the DEA. We have received reports from small-town physicians, family practice physicians and physicians who care for a large indigent constituency that have been targeted as well.

The DEA receives tips that may cause it to target you.  The types of things that may cause you to come up on its radar include reports sent by narcotics manufacturers, criminal defendants pointing the finger at others in attempt to gain more lenient sentences, complaints from the state Medicaid program (because of prescriptions for narcotics billed to and paid for by Medicaid), complaints filed by competitors, and complaints of family members of patients, among others.

Be Prepared if the DEA Comes in.

You should train your entire staff on what to do if the DEA comes in to "inspect" or "audit" your practice (note:  we suggest that you substitute the term "raid" for "inspect" or "audit").

    1.    Be prepared.  The DEA will always make a showing of force, with multiple agents, flashing badges and guns. The actual experience can be shocking and is calculated to surprise so that you are unprepared to rationally think about what you should do.

    2.    Verify that your staff knows that no one is authorized to release records except you, the owner.

    3.    You and your staff should have all contact information for your attorney, including cell phone numbers for weekends and after hours.  You may need a criminal defense attorney as well as a health law regulatory attorney.  Each staff member should have this information at his/her work station.  You should have it in your wallet, on your desk and at your home.

    4.    Call your attorneys as soon as the DEA walks in the door.  Do not speak to or allow the DEA to get you alone.

    5.    Get the names and business cards of every person there from the DEA or any other agency.

    6.    If you are not present, be sure your staff knows to call you and your attorneys right away.

    7.    Tell the DEA agents that you must speak with your attorney prior to speaking with the DEA agent.  Have a witness to this if you can.

    8.    Do not make any decision or sign any paper until you speak with your attorney who is experienced with DEA matters.

    9.    The DEA tries to surround the physician or pharmacist with DEA agents.  We have had reports from physicians and pharmacists that after they told the DEA agents that they wanted to speak to their attorney the DEA agent advised them that they did not have this right.  This is not true.

    10.    Physicians and pharmacists report that DEA agents say that unless they sign a voluntary relinquishment of their DEA number they will be arrested and prosecuted.  Usually this is a bluff.  If the DEA has an arrest warrant, you will be arrested.  If they do not, you won't be.  Agreeing to voluntarily relinquish your DEA registration will have nothing to do with this.

    11.    NEVER SIGN A VOLUNTARY RELINQUISHMENT OF YOUR DEA REGISTRATION.  Once it is gone, you will never get another one. Regardless of what you are told.

    12.    Be aware of the many consequences of not having a DEA registration.  A physician will be unable to write most prescriptions, will lose hospital and nursing home clinical privileges, and will be terminated from most health insurance panels.  A pharmacist or pharmacy will be terminated from most insurance company panels and may also have an investigation commenced against its license.  You may also be excluded from Medicare and Medicaid and lose other valuable rights and privileges.

    13.    If given the choice between voluntarily giving up your DEA registration and being arrested, I'm sorry to tell you, you should select being arrested.  I doubt this will actually happen, but then you have a good fighting chance at winning.  Once you have given up your DEA registration, it is gone and there is nothing you can do to get it back.

    14.    If the DEA attempts to take your original records, ask to see a search warrant. The DEA is not legally authorized to seize and take any such property without a search warrant.  You could offer to make a copy and send the copy to them later, but you should object to providing your original records you are required by law to keep and maintain.

    15.    Obtain a detailed, itemized written receipt for anything taken (even copies) by the DEA.

We have received a number of reports from physicians and pharmacists that they were intimidated into handing over all their original records or "voluntarily" giving up their DEA registrations under threat of arrest or worse.  Be prepared for such scare tactics and make sure your staff is prepared too.

If you have had an experience with the DEA similar to what we are discussing here, we would like to hear from you.


Do you think the DEA should be allowed to threaten physicians and pharmacists with arrest if they refuse to "voluntarily" give up their DEA registrations?  Do you believe that DEA agents should be allowed to isolate a physician or pharmacist they are interrogating and tell that physician or pharmacist that they do not have the right to speak with their attorney?

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling DEA cases. If you are currently being investigated or facing other adverse action by the DEA contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

Tag Words: Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA, physician, doctor, pharmacist, pharmacy, DEA inspection, DEA audit, DEA raid, DEA number, prescription, narcotics, Pharm. D, R.Ph, registered pharmacist, Rx, controlled substances, how to handle DEA raid, how to handle DEA inspection, DEA attorney, DEA lawyer, voluntary relinquishment, should I voluntarily relinquish my DEA license, DEA registration, DEA scare tactics, DEA number, DEA interrogation, DEA arrest warrant, defense attorney, defense lawyer, health law firm, The Health Law Firm 
"The Health Law Firm" is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. - The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.


Response to: Does the DEA Use Intimidation Tactics to Force Doctors and Pharmacists to Give up Their DEA Number?
Thursday, July 24, 2014
john hilton says:

i have been witness to the dea coming in doc office to go through paitents records.. also i have been disabled for twenty five years and here in the last six months or so i have had a problem filling my medications every where i go my pharmacy that i have used for more than six years refused to fill my prescriptions saying the dea would not let them.. yet the dea says not true as long as it is ligite r x well i been with the same doctor for almost eighteen years and they had no problem filling before. i am at a loss as what to do , i know it is the dea behind all this.. i hope what has happened to me happens to the dea but wait they will have no problem getting their meds cause they are corrupt ..

Like this blog? Add your public comments:

Items in bold indicate required information.