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Opioid Drugs

Pharmacist Who Stole Opioids Must Surrender License

— July 2, 2020

Pharmacist caught taking opioids from hospital gives up his license.

Pharmacist Joshua Johnson has surrendered his license amid charges including felony theft of property after being allegedly caught stealing opioids from St. Francis hospital.  His case was brought to the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy in May of this year, and the board allowed Johnson to voluntarily give up his ability to prescribe medication.

Johnson worked at St. Francis in Bartlett and was on the clock when he siphoned medication from the facility’s automatic dispenser, disposing of receipts.  The consent order entered by the board also states that between “July 14, 2018 and June 7, 2019,” the pharmacist “accessed the dispenser approximately 422 times and took more than 2,000 ampules of hydromorphone.”  Tennessee state records show the amount of medication stolen would have been used to generate “694 doses of patient-controlled anesthesia.”

Johnson is represented by attorney Leslie Ballin, who indicated, “I met him recently.  All the proceedings involving his license came before me.  He made a decision to have a career change.”

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Ballin says the state’s criminal case was delayed due to COVID. “To date, the state has not had the opportunity to respond,” adding, That’s not unusual.”  The indictment indicates Bartlett PD is involved.

“We take all allegations of misconduct very seriously.  We fully cooperated with the authorities, and this individual is no longer employed by our hospital,” said Shelly Weiss Friedberg, a spokesperson for St. Francis.

In February of this year, Memphis psychiatrist, 83-year-old licensed psychiatrist Richard Farmer, was also found guilty of unlawfully distributing opioids.  The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found Farmer guilty of “three counts of distribution of controlled substances outside of the scope of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose.”

Farmer was charged in April 2019 after reportedly giving opioids to three sisters who he had “ongoing sexual contact” with while prescribing the opioids.  Farmer is accused of prescribing more than 1,200 pills to the woman in less than three years and doing so despite knowing they were misusing the medication.

State and federal regulators have vowed to continue holding anyone helping to fuel the opioid crisis responsible, including pharmacists and physicians.

“The Department of Justice will not relent in its pursuit of those responsible for fueling the opioid epidemic in the Appalachian region,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  “Today’s verdict, which shows that our efforts are yielding tangible results, is a credit to the hard work of the Criminal Division’s ARPO Strike Force and our U.S. Attorney’s Office and law enforcement partners.”

“Opioid misuse and abuse is an insidious epidemic, created in large part by the over-prescribing and diversion of potent opioids,” said U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant of the Western District of Tennessee.  “This guilty verdict demonstrates our resolve to aggressively prosecute medical personnel who misuse their positions of trust to exploit the very people coming to them for help.”

“Doctors who take advantage of patients suffering from addiction are no different than street corner drug dealers,” said Special Agent in Charge J. Todd Scott of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Louisville Division Office.  “I am proud of the dedicated men and women of DEA who worked tirelessly to bring Dr. Farmer to justice.


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Memphis psychiatrist found guilty of unlawfully distributing opioids

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