In 2013, the Georgia legislature initiated a crackdown on unregulated pain management clinics in an attempt to curb the illegal distribution of prescription narcotics. The Georgia Pain Management Clinic Act (HB-178, also called the “Pill Mill” law) implements strict licensing rules for the operation of pain management clinics in the state, under threat of felony charges for breaking those rules.
Truthfully, Georgia needed tighter regulations around pain pill distribution. Before this bill was passed, pain management clinics were almost completely unregulated in the state; people with no background in healthcare could own and run them, even convicted felons. However, the stricter rules don’t just affect people who have no business distributing pain pills; duly licensed healthcare professionals may also find themselves in jeopardy. In fact, at least one doctor and two pharmacists in Georgia have already been sentenced to prison for improper dispensing of pain medications since the law was passed. If you run a pain management clinic in Georgia—especially one that was open prior to HB-178—make certain you’re operating in compliance with this law to avoid potentially serious legal complications.
What Does the Law Say?
If you are the technical/legal type, you can read the full text of the “Pill Mill” law here. However, below I’ve summarized the most significant provisions of the law, which went into effect July 1, 2013:
- All pain management clinics must be licensed by the Georgia Composite Medical Board. They must renew their licenses every two years, and the Board reserves the right to deny, suspend or revoke licenses for noncompliance.
- All pain management clinics administering controlled substances must also register with the Georgia State Board of Pharmacy.
- All pain management clinics formed as of June 30, 2013 or later must be owned by a physician licensed in the State of Georgia.
- Pain management clinics that existed before July 1, 2013 don’t have to be doctor-owned provided they adhere to certain criteria—namely, the owner can’t run more than one clinic, or the clinic must be co-owned by at least one physician and a physician’s assistant or registered nurse.
- No convicted felon may own or operate a pain management clinic, nor a person who has a previously revoked license.
- The Georgia Composite Medical Board is authorized to establish further guidelines for how pain management clinics may operate.
What to Do If You Are Charged with a “Pill Mill” Violation
If you are a licensed physician running a pain management clinic in compliance with HB-178, chances are you’ve got nothing to worry about. However, if you are not a physician-owner, or if you inadvertently find yourself in non-compliance with this law or with Board regulations, you could be facing serious criminal charges. If you need legal representation for charges related to the “Pill Mill” law, Chehimi Law is here to help. Give us a call at 678-459-5659.