Unlawful Practice of Medicine (Part 3)

by | May 4, 2020 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The second principle issue concerns N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5 and the sufficiency of the evidence presented to the grand jury regarding the physician assistant’s distribution of controlled substances. The appellate panel held in relevant part: A licensed physician or physician assistant who is registered to prescribe CDS is not exempt from criminal prosecution for prescribing medically unnecessary CDS. State v. Vaccaro (App. Div. 1976). As we explained in Vaccaro: A physician’s license and registration authorizes him to dispense controlled dangerous substances, but the statute makes it clear that he is immune from criminal liability when he dispenses the same “in good faith . . . in the course of his professional practice only.” If he engages in dispensing or selling such drugs beyond the necessities of the good faith practice of his profession, he is no less a ‘pusher’ of drugs-a criminal-than a layman unadorned by the trappings of a license or registration. See United States v. Moore, 423 U.S. 77 (1975), for cases involving analogous federal statute.

A physician who is honest and ethical, and dispenses the prohibited drugs in a good faith effort to treat and cure patients, has no fear of the criminal sanctions of the statute. However, his mere status as a licensed physician who has been properly registered as a dispenser of the prohibited drugs does not give him the blanket right to abuse his authority and profession by dispensing drugs without relation to his sworn professional obligations. See United States v. Moore; United States v. Doremus, 249 U.S. 86 (1919); Webb v. United States, 249 U.S. 96 (1919); Commonwealth v. Miller, 282 N.E.2d 394 (Sup. Jud. Ct. 1972); State v. Jacobs, 503 P.2d 826 (Sup. Ct. 1972).

The citations show recorded decisions dating back to 1919. Contemporary cases bring to mind the “pill mills” which have become well-known in Florida and throughout the country.