Pharmacy closed and pharmacist surrenders license after federal investigation.
Robert L. Crocker, owner of Farmville Discount Drug must relinquish his pharmacist after ignoring “red flags” and distributing powerful painkillers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Crocker, whose pharmacy is situated in a town in Pitt County approximately 70 miles southeast of Raleigh, reportedly issued hundreds of addictive opioid prescriptions to just one family.
Prosecutors say the pharmacist looked past obviously warning signs of “drug-seeking behavior” when he filled prescriptions for pain medications, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. In addition to these drugs, he also dispensed those that could enhance the impact of opioids.
Farmville Discount Drug is accused of “serving patients who went from doctor to doctor or drove about an hour to get there,” according to the complaint. “The business also filled hundreds of opioid prescriptions for multiple members of the same family under highly suspicious circumstances.” In one case, Crocker’s pharmacy distributed thousands of potent opioid pills to a person who lived about sixty miles away, prosecutors said. At the same time, the business filled dozens of drugs for someone with the same last name and address.
Crocker and Farmville will pay civil penalties totaling $600,000 and were forced to enter a consent order ensuring they will “never dispense opioids or other controlled substances again” for ignoring red flags. This means Crocker was forced to surrender his pharmacist’s license and agree to never have it renewed. The “pill mill” has also been removed from the state’s Board of Pharmacy site and records show it is now defunct.
“As the last line of defense between these dangerously addictive substances and our communities, pharmacists and pharmacies play a critical role in stemming the tide of the opioid epidemic,” prosecutors stated. “The turn-a-blind-eye approach to pharmacy practice on display at Farmville Discount Drug did just the opposite; it made matters worse.”
“The Department of Justice has made combating the opioid crisis one of its top priorities,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “We will work hand-in-hand with the DEA and other law enforcement partners to ensure that pharmacies that fail to uphold their obligation to dispense controlled substances lawfully will be held accountable.”
“Opioid addiction and abuse have devastated communities across our nation, and eastern North Carolina is no exception,” said United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon. “Today’s order demonstrates our office’s unwavering commitment to hold all those who had a role to play in this crisis, from distributors, to prescribers, to the pharmacies who ultimately put the pills in patients’ hands, responsible for their actions.”
Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Atlanta Field Division added, “DEA Diversion Investigators will continue to aggressively pursue the unlawful dispensing practices of healthcare providers. These providers should be in compliance with a set standard of rules and regulations. This civil suit and permanent injunction shows that DEA, its law enforcement partners, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are committed to making sure that healthcare providers are abiding by its mandates.”