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DEA Revokes Doctor’s Registration for Misconduct and Lack of State Authority

Health Law Alert Larry P. Cote

On June 15, 2012, the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") issued a Final Order in the Matter of Patrick K. Chau, M.D. ("Dr. Chau"). The Administrator revoked Dr. Chau's DEA Certificate of Registration as a practitioner and denied his pending application for renewal of said registration. Specifically, the Administrator concluded that Dr. Chau lacked appropriate authority to prescribe controlled substances in the State in which he was registered with DEA, and that Dr. Chau committed such acts that rendered his continued registration inconsistent with the public interest.

On August 8, 2011, the Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Diversion Control, DEA, issued an Order to Show Cause ("OTSC") to Dr. Chau, of Vancouver, Washington proposing the revocation of Dr. Chau's DEA registration as a practitioner. Specifically, the OTSC alleged that Dr. Chau issued prescriptions for alprazolam, a schedule IV controlled substance, to two undercover law enforcement officers, without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice. The OTSC further alleged that the State of Washington's Medical Quality Assurance Commission ("MQAC") issued an order prohibiting Dr. Chau from prescribing controlled substances, and that Dr. Chau is, therefore, without authority to prescribe controlled substances in the State in which he is registered with DEA. Dr. Chau did not request a hearing or otherwise challenge the allegations raised in the OTSC.

At the onset, the Administrator found that by virtue of the order issued by the MQAC that Dr. Chau is prohibited from prescribing controlled substances under Washington law. Therefore, DEA determined that Dr. Chau is not a "practitioner" within the meaning of the CSA, and thus, he is not entitled to be registered. Notwithstanding the fact that DEA could have revoked Dr. Chau's DEA registration on this basis alone, the Agency nonetheless addressed the additional misconduct alleged in the OTSC. The Agency determined that Dr. Chau's DEA registration should also be revoked on the basis that he committed several acts that render his registration inconsistent with the public interest including, but not limited to, his repeated violations of the standard of care and committing unprofessional conduct in prescribing controlled substances to numerous patients as described in the MQAC's Agreed Order and his prescribing of alprazolam to two law enforcement officers for other than a legitimate medical purpose. In reaching this ultimate conclusion, the Agency reiterated its authority, when conducting a public interest analysis, "to consider prescribing practices of a physician, which, while not rising to the level of intentional or knowing misconduct, nonetheless create a substantial risk of diversion." Thus, even a naïve or gullible practitioner who ignores the warning signs that his patients are abusing or diverting controlled substances commits acts that are inconsistent with the public interest.

For more information on the DEA's Final Order, please contact Larry Cote at (202) 372-9524 / larry.cote@quarles.com, D. Linden Barber at (312) 715-5219 / linden.barber@quarles.com or your Quarles & Brady attorney.