While nurse practitioners are authorized to prescribe medications in every state, abusing that trust can result in serious consequences, including loss of license and even a criminal record--as one CNP in Pennsylvania found out recently. According to the Tribune-Review, Kari A. Halaut of Greensburg, PA, has been sentenced to three years probation for fraudulently writing hundreds of prescriptions for thousands of pills over a period of several years. In addition, both her nurse's license and her certified registered nurse practitioner's license have been suspended by the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing.
According to reports, Halaut wrote the fake prescriptions using prescription pads from a former employer while practicing at other facilities. She reportedly used other people's names to fill out the prescriptions, then picked up the prescriptions herself at the pharmacies. The article stops short of saying Halaut wrote the scripts for herself, but she is under mandatory orders to undergo alcohol and drug treatment during her probation. She pleaded no contest to charges of identity theft and violations of the Pharmacy Act. She is also currently seeking legal help to have her RN license reinstated by the Board, as the resulting court order does not prohibit her from doing so.
Why Prescription Writing Privileges Are Monitored Closely by State Licensing Boards
Prescription drug abuse and misuse are significant public health problems across the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were more than 107,000 overdose deaths in 2021, many of which were caused by prescription drugs (particularly opioids). To avert these types of tragedies, states have implemented laws that hold healthcare providers accountable for prescribing medications that are not medically necessary or otherwise appropriate. (In the case of Kari Halaut, investigators were able to track her prescription writing practices through Pennsylvania's drug monitoring program.)
Consequences of Writing Fraudulent Prescriptions
Not every licensed healthcare professional is authorized to write prescriptions, but whether or not you are authorized to do so in your profession, writing fraudulent prescriptions is a serious offense that can have severe consequences. Writing fraudulent prescriptions includes providing a prescription for any controlled substance without medical necessity or providing a prescription with the intent to deceive or defraud. The state boards in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York all have the authority to suspend or revoke your license to practice if they find evidence that you have written fraudulent prescriptions.
The trouble may not end there. Even if you're allowed to keep your license, any drug violation may be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). The NPDB is used by hospitals and other healthcare organizations as part of their credentialing process when hiring new practitioners. Therefore, any violation reported on your record may impact your ability to find employment in the future.
Getting Legal Help if You Are Accused of Wrongdoing
Even if you're a healthcare professional facing allegations of improper prescription writing, that doesn't automatically mean you can no longer practice. Even in the case of Kari Halaut, her no-contest plea to criminal charges still left the door open to reinstatement of her registered nurse's license on approval by the Board. Even so, the stakes are high, so the best way to protect your license and your career is to seek help from an experienced professional license defense attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help licensed professionals in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and beyond, who are facing possible disciplinary action. To schedule a consultation, contact the Lento Law Firm today.