Is the DEA Guilty of Drug Trafficking?


In a recent e-mail exchange with me, Georgia physician Bill MacArthur complains that the Drug Enforcement Administration, for a fee, lets companies sell access to its database of health care professionals authorized to prescribe controlled substances. Information from the database–including individual DEA registration numbers, expiration dates, and zip codes–is available here, here, and here, for example. MacArthur worries that the information, which is ostensibly aimed at customers who want to verify a physician's registration status, could be used to facilitate prescription forgery:

If a pharmacist, physician or other registrant does not protect the confidentiality of their registration number (misplaces or loses a prescription pad) they can be significantly disciplined. If the federal government decides to sell my DEA registration information they appear to still want to hold the registrant responsible for what the purchaser does with it (prescription forgery). I know we're talking about the federal government, but this really does not make sense to me since it could potentially ruin careers.

Applying the logic used by the federal government to prosecute physicians accused of being too loose with painkillers, the fact that the DEA is acting in good faith, with no intention of facilitating diversion of pharmaceuticals to the black market, should not shield it from drug trafficking charges.