June 27, 2022 – Washington, DC – Today, the Center for U.S. Policy published the following statement in response to the unanimous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Ruan v. U.S.:
Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Ruan v. U.S. case is much-needed good news. People with conditions like pain, opioid use disorder, anxiety, ADHD, and insomnia should now better have access to medically necessary treatments because prescribers should no longer have to worry about being federally prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned for conduct that is not intentionally criminal.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously ruled that, to convict a licensed and registered prescriber for Controlled Substances Act (CSA) violations, the federal government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the prescriber knowingly or intentionally acted not “as authorized.” To be authorized, a prescription must be issued for a legitimate medical purpose by a licensed and registered prescriber acting in the usual course of his or her professional practice. Therefore, under the Ruan decision, to secure a CSA conviction against a licensed and registered prescriber, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the prescriber knew that there was no legitimate medical purpose or that the prescriber knowingly or intentionally deviated from his or her usual professional practice in prescribing the controlled medication.
The Ruan decision is also good for substance use disorder and drug poisoning prevention. It should now be less likely that people who need opioids and other controlled medications will be relegated to the illegal market, where adulteration of counterfeit medications with illicit fentanyl is increasingly prevalent. Swift and strong drug enforcement methods remain in place.
The federal government may still pursue administrative actions against CSA registrants who improperly prescribe controlled substances. Medical licensing boards still have the authority to investigate and take corrective action against professionals who improperly prescribe controlled substances. Similarly, people harmed by rogue prescribers still have the right to pursue civil claims for medical malpractice.
In January 2022, our Chairman Michael C. Barnes; Senior Fellow Lynn R. Webster, M.D.; and Stephen J. Ziegler, Ph.D., J.D., with the counsel of Ronald W. Chapman II, Esq., filed an amicus brief advocating in favor of today’s decision. We thank our colleagues for their support and congratulate them on the favorable and just outcome.
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