Eight Doctors Recommending Medical Pot Aren't Following Rules to Access DEA Database, State Says; Letters Sent to Medical Boards

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Eight doctors who have written nearly half of the state's 10,000 or so medical marijuana recommendations didn't check in with a DEA-monitored database as required, state officials allege.

Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, says he notified the Arizona Medical Board and Arizona Naturopathic Physicians Medical Board about the doctors after discrepancies were found in their submitted certification documents.

Under the rules drafted by Humble's agency, the doctors had to attest in writing that they'd reviewed a patient's medical records -- and a Drug Enforcement Agency database that contains a history of the patient's controlled-substance prescriptions.

But some docs are cheating, DHS research showed. State and federal authorities can tell how often any doctor accesses the database.

Officials declined to release the names of the doctors, citing the medical marijuana law's confidentiality rules.

"I do have the responsibility to when I see what I think is unprofessional conduct is to notify the boards of that," Humble says.

Humble says he sent a letter to the naturopathic board in mid-July about one doctor. This week, he asked employees to pull the names of all physicians who'd written more than 200 certifications since the program began in April.

The list p[roved 10 doctors long -- and eight of the ten "had discrepancies between what they said they'd been doing" and the DEA-database search log, Humble says.

That prompted more letters to the medical boards. Humble hopes the boards investigate the doctors.

The highest-volume physician had been to the database only 199 times out of more than 1,300 certifications, he says.

Three doctors never logged in at all.

The way the rules have been set up, it appears, the state program is tied electronically to the federal government.

Dean Wright, program director for the Arizona Board of Pharmacy, says that if a doctor's prescription-writing ability has been revoked by the DEA, the doctor is no longer allowed to access the database.

As for patients who received their recommendations from the doctors being scrutinized -- they needn't worry: "We're not going to pull anybody's card because their physician made a false attestation," Humble says.

A physician who has attested to running a name through the controlled-substances database hasn't committed perjury under the law, according to Humble, but it "does make us think what else aren't they doing?"

Seems like doctors either follow the rules, as most of the doctors are apparently doing -- or maybe it's just that the state's rules need to be tweaked again.

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