Court Denies DEA Injunction to Suspend Practitioner’s Registration

May 21, 2008

A U.S. District Court recently denied the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (“DEA’s”) attempt to use an injunction to suspend a physician’s DEA registration.  The court noted that the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) provides adequate administrative procedures to suspend a DEA registration.  The court also denied the government’s motion for summary judgment, determining that the government’s contention that the physician prescribed outside the course of professional practice juxtaposed against the practitioner’s assertion that he followed accepted pain guidelines, present genuine issues of material fact to be decided at trial.

On May 12, 2008,  in United States v. Seth Paskon, Judge Carol E. Jackson of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Missouri denied the government’s motions against Seth Paskon, M.D.  The government alleged that Dr. Paskon issued medically unnecessary prescriptions for narcotic medications.  The government’s civil case against the practitioner under the False Claims Act and the CSA seeking restitution to Medicaid, civil penalties and an injunction against future CSA violations, is set for trial in July. 

Preliminary Injunction

The government sought injunctive relief directing Dr. Paskon to immediately stop prescribing controlled substances and to surrender his DEA registration.  The court concluded that the government failed to meet the burden of showing why the injunction should be issued before trial.  The government did not cite, and the court did not find, any cases in which a court limited a physician’s registration prior to disposition of the government’s claims.  The court noted that “the CSA provides a comprehensive regime-complete with standards, burdens, and review procedures-pursuant to which DEA may revoke or suspend a physician’s registration.”  The court further found that the government did not explain why it did not rely on the CSA’s administrative process to stop Dr. Paskon’s prescribing and terminate his DEA registration.  In other words, DEA could have immediately suspended Dr. Paskon’s registration under the CSA’s standard and administrative remedies, that is, if his continued registration posed an imminent danger to the public health or safety. 

Summary Judgment

The government also sought partial summary judgment in the matter.   The government alleges that Dr. Paskon violated 21 U.S.C. § 842(a)(1), which provides that it is unlawful for any person to distribute or dispense controlled substances in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 829.  Section 829 provides that controlled substances cannot be dispensed without a prescription issued by a practitioner.  For prescriptions to be valid, they must “be issued for a legitimate medical purpose by an individual practitioner acting in the usual course of his professional practice.” 

Judge Jackson cited examples from cases where defendant physicians had acted outside the bounds of “professional practice.”  The court distinguished those cases from the case against Dr. Paskon.  For example, the court found no evidence that Dr. Paskon, gave inadequate physical examinations, ignored test results, distributed controlled substances away from the office, or demanded cash for prescriptions. 

The court noted the government provided an expert opinion but lacked evidence from patients and undercover agents to support its contention while Dr. Paskon contended that he followed accepted guidelines, including the World Health Organization’s Pain Ladder, for managing patients with chronic pain.  Finding that the record presents genuine disputes of material fact, the court denied the government’s motion for partial summary judgment. 

By Larry K. Houck