Jun 28, 2022 - Health

Supreme Court sides with doctors in "pill mills" case

Pedestrians walk past the Supreme Court Building.
Photo: Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sided with two doctors accused of running opioid "pill mills" in a case about whether they could be criminally prosecuted for distributing controlled substances if the prescription was thought to be for a legitimate medical reason.

Why it matters: The case came amid a crackdown on illegal prescribing during the opioid crisis and took up if doctors could be sent to prison for breaking medical norms.

Details: Justices unanimously ruled a good-faith defense protects a physician from prosecution under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

  • Advocates for patients with chronic pain argued doctors could only be convicted when they intended and knew they were prescribing in an unauthorized manner.
  • "The difference is important, and especially so for doctors treating patients in pain, who might otherwise be deterred from meeting the needs of their patients by the fear that disagreement with their medical judgment would subject them to serious criminal liability," the National Pain Advocacy Center wrote on Twitter following the decision.

Background: Xiulu Ruan and Shakeel Kahn were sentenced to 21 and 25 years in prison, respectively, in separate criminal cases, Reuters reported.

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