Since the 1970’s prescription drug abuse has been an epidemic in the United States that has been the subject of ongoing legislative control and attention. Prescription drugs are supposed to only be issued to patients by a qualified medical professional for the purpose of treating a medical condition. Increasingly however, people who want prescription drugs but lack a valid prescription are managing to obtain prescription drugs at pill mills in many states.

What is a Pill Mill?

The term “pill mill’ is a term used to describe a clinic, pharmacy, or doctor that dispenses or prescribes powerful narcotics for non-medical or inappropriate reasons. These “pill mills” have fueled the drug trade by prescribing large amounts of opioid drugs and controlled substances. For example, Florida is one of the states that has been hardest hit by the prescription drug abuse epidemic and pill mills.

In Florida, prescription drugs were the cause of 81% of all drug-related or drug-caused deaths, excluding deaths caused by alcohol, in 2010. In 2011, the percentage of deaths related to prescription drugs abuse was even greater than that of 2010. As a response, Florida instituted pill mill laws and a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

How Does a Pill Mill Operate?

As noted above, a pill mill hides in plain sight, operating as a pain management office, pain clinic, or doctor’s office with a staff. Pill mills generally have a sign telling people that medication is dispensed at that location and/or that out-of-state patients are welcome. Further evidence of a pill mill, is signage indicating that no appointment is needed.

Additionally, there is usually a doctor or other medical professionals on staff who will write a prescription based merely on a quick medical examination. After the prescription is written, the clinic fills the prescription immediately in house. The filled prescriptions at a pill mill typically cost more than they would at a traditional pharmacy and include a higher number of pills normally prescribed in each container.  

All of the aforementioned reasons make pill mills a lucrative business for criminals. Physicians illegally prescribing opioids or other prescription medications can make thousands of dollars a day, often paid in cash or other untraceable forms of payment. There are examples of police officers finding millions of dollars in cash at a single pill mill.

Why Do People Go to a Pill Mill?

You may be asking why an individual would visit a place likely known for their illegal distribution of prescription medication. Individuals usually go to this type of clinic for various reasons including:

  • They do not have access to a doctor who can prescribe medication that they need;

  • They do not have access to health insurance;

  • They want to acquire drugs or prescription medication to resell; and/or

  • They are addicted to the pain medication itself, such as an addiction to oxycontin.

Is it Against the Law for a Doctor to Work in or Operate a Pill Mill?

The answer is an obvious one, yes. As you may be able to infer, it is illegal under federal law for a doctor to prescribe pain medication without having a legitimate medical purpose for doing so. Further, it is also illegal for a doctor to write a prescription outside the course of their medical practice.

Prescriptions that are deemed invalid by a pharmacist can result in the medical professional who issued the prescription being arrested for drug trafficking under federal law. Additionally, physicians must be registered with the DEA to prescribe controlled substances, and they must have also obtained proper state licensing.

Further, their registration must be renewed every 3 years, and the physician must be registered in every state in which he or she dispenses controlled substances. Failure to register with the DEA, operate without proper state licensing, or prescribe prescription medications in a pill mill carries severe federal criminal penalties.

Penalties for violating federal law on controlled substances includes jail time, fines, loss of DEA licensure, and loss of medical licensure. Further, the DEA can investigate and participate in the arrest and prosecution of physicians who violate controlled substance laws, such as those suspected of working in or operating a pill mill. Physicians may also face additional sanctions from the governing board that issued their medical license.

Should I Contact an Attorney If I Am Accused of Operating or Working in a Pill Mill?

You should absolutely contact an attorney if you have been accused of being associated with a pill mill. As can be seen, the owners and operators pill mills have been subject to heavy federal penalties and sanctions in order to reduce the amount of prescription medication deaths.

Thus, it is in your best interest to consult a well qualified and licensed criminal law defense attorney regarding your particular case and circumstances. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to consult you regarding the charges and penalties that you are facing, as well as represent you in front of a court of law, if necessary.