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SCOTUS Hears Arguments In Doctors’ Good Faith Defense to Prescribing Controlled Substances

When is a doctor a doctor and when is a doctor a drug dealer? In early March, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in two consolidated cases — Ruan v. United States and Kahn v. United States — to address where that line is drawn.

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When is a doctor a doctor and when is a doctor a drug dealer? In early March, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in two consolidated cases — Ruan v. United States and Kahn v. United States — to address where that line is drawn. Since the mid-1970s, doctors who prescribe controlled substances are not subject to prosecution for unlawful distribution under the Controlled Substances Act unless those prescriptions “fall outside the usual course of professional practice.” United States v. Moore, 423 U.S. 122, 124 (1975). If a doctor prescribing controlled substances believes, mistakenly, that he or she is acting within the usual course of professional practice, that sounds like medical malpractice, but is it also a felony? The court granted certiorari in Ruan and Kahn to address a circuit split on whether a physician who prescribes controlled substances may be convicted of unlawful distribution under 21 U.S.C. §841(a)(1) without regard to whether, in good faith, that physician believed the prescriptions to fall within an acceptable course of professional practice. See, Ruan v. United States, No. 20-1410; Kahn v. United States, No. 21-5261.

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