A North Carolina pharmacy agrees to cease dispensing opioid drugs without oversight.
Resolving a complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier this month, a federal court has entered a consent decree ordering an Asheboro, North Carolina, pharmacy and its two pharmacists to cease dispensing controlled substances, including addictive opioid drugs, without taking steps to make sure these medications will not be abused or diverted for illicit use. The court also ordered the defendants to pay $300,000 in civil penalties.
The case had alleged that Asheboro Drug Company, and its pharmacists, father and son duo Isaac F. Brady III and Isaac F. Brady IV, filled prescriptions in violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which places all regulated substances under existing federal law into one of five schedules and serves as a set of protocols for proper manufacturing and distribution of these drugs.
The complaint indicated the defendants “dispensed prescription opioids while disregarding numerous red flags – that is, obvious indications of drug abuse, drug diversion and drug-seeking behavior.”
Examples presented in the complaint suggested “the defendants filled prescriptions for dangerous combinations of drugs known to be sought by drug abusers and which significantly increase the risk of overdose; filled high-dose opioid prescriptions on a long-term basis; and filled prescriptions for patients who appeared to have shopped for doctors willing to prescribe controlled substances.”
The defendants were also accused of dispensing similar prescriptions for multiple members of the same family, refilling these prescriptions early without reason, and filling orders that were obviously suspicious.
“The Department of Justice will not hesitate to act when a pharmacy disregards its responsibilities and puts patients at risk,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Pharmacists have a duty to ensure that opioids and other controlled substances are distributed lawfully.”
“Opioid addiction and abuse continue to devastate North Carolina communities,” added U.S. Attorney Sandra J. Hairston for the Middle District of North Carolina. “Pharmacists play a key role in preventing diversion of controlled substances, and they have a legal responsibility to ensure that the prescriptions they fill are legitimate. Our office will continue to pursue dispensers and prescribers who fail to live up to their obligations under the Controlled Substances Act.”
“The law requires pharmacists to ensure that the prescriptions they dispense are for a legitimate medical purpose and are issued by prescribers acting in the usual course of their professional practice,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert J. Murphy of the DEA Atlanta Field Division. “Pharmacists are not simply pill-counters. The penalty and injunction in this case serves notice that DEA will not turn a blind eye when pharmacists shirk their duty by ignoring red flags of abuse and diversion.”
Asheboro Drug and its pharmacists have cooperated fully with the DOJ’s investigation and have agreed to the terms of the decree. The defendants will now be able to fill and refill controlled prescriptions only after receiving documentation justifying the drug orders. They must also comply with federal laws mandating that pharmacies flag suspicious orders for investigation by federal officials.