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FMG Law Blog Line

Amendments make the difference for opioid prescription writers in the recently passed House Bill 551

Posted on: April 25th, 2019

By: Shaun Daugherty

Several years ago in Georgia, the Legislature passed a law requiring anyone with a DEA registration number to enroll and become a user of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (“PDMP”) no later than January 2018. For those that did not register, the law read that the prescriber will “be held administratively accountable to the state regulatory board governing such prescriber…” Recently, many of our state regulatory boards started looking to see who had not registered and starting to hold providers “administratively liable.” Generally speaking, this meant getting a disciplinary letter from the board or the Attorney General’s Office citing the violation and the sanctions that were desired. In many cases, this meant a public reprimand in the form of a consent order.

House Bill 551 was introduced in the 2019 legislative session. Originally, the Bill was related to kratom, its prohibition to anyone under 18, and the labeling requirements of packaging. Kratom is an herb that is being studied for its effects on pain relief, depression and anxiety. However, the substance has been used recreationally, can be abused, and is under great scrutiny on the federal and state levels.

Through the process of how a bill becomes a law (thank you Schoolhouse Rock!), House Bill 551 received an amendment which had nothing to do with kratom. The amendment related to the powers of the state regulatory boards when holding a prescriber “administratively liable” for failure to register with the PDMP. For any prior disciplinary actions that had been levied, the Bill indicates that until December 31, 2019, the issuing board shall have the discretion to rescind the same if the prescriber subsequently registered for the database, complied with any other imposed requirements, and has not had other administrative violations in the past. Some would argue that the regulatory boards always had this discretion and the fact that there is now a date where such discretion is withdrawn may create future issues.

In addition, the Bill further restricted the board’s power moving forward by defining “administratively liable” as the ability to provide a warning to the prescriber and/or to impose a fine. The fine is considered administrative in nature and not a form of discipline. Essentially, the Bill appears to take away the power of the boards to publicly sanction or discipline any provider that has failed to register for the PDMP as they were required to do.

The Bill was sent to the Governor for signature on April 11, 2019. If the Bill becomes law, and you have been publicly sanctioned for failure to register for the PDMP, you can petition to have the discipline rescinded. If you received a letter about the desire to sanction your license, but no action has yet been taken, hold tight, you may just get a warning and a fine.

For any questions, please contact Shaun Daugherty at [email protected].

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