The U.S. Department of Justice unsealed on February 8, 2019 a civil complaint filed in the Middle District of Tennessee against two pharmacies, their owner, and three pharmacists, to stop them from dispensing controlled substance medications, including powerful opioids that have been linked to abuse and diversion.
The civil complaint alleges that the defendants were dispensing and billing Medicare for prescriptions in violation of the Controlled Substances Act and the False Claims Act. According to the United States’ complaint, the defendants’ unlawful dispensing of opioids has been tied to the deaths of at least two people and numerous others have been treated at hospitals for serious overdoses within a short time of obtaining controlled substances from the pharmacies.
The complaint alleges that the pharmacies and pharmacists filled numerous prescriptions for controlled substances outside the usual course of professional practice and in violation of the pharmacists’ corresponding responsibility to ensure that prescriptions were written for a legitimate medical purpose. Specifically, the complaint alleges that the defendants routinely dispensed controlled substances while ignoring numerous “red flags” or warning signs of diversion and abuse, such as unusually high dosages of oxycodone and other opioids, prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances in dangerous combinations, and patients travelling extremely long distances to get and fill prescriptions. The complaint further asserts that the pharmacies falsely billed Medicare for illegally dispensed prescriptions.
A federal judge has already issued a temporary restraining order in the case, and the United States seeks civil monetary penalties and treble damages.
In announcing the unsealing of the complaint, one of the U.S. Attorneys assigned to the case stated, “The civil complaint unsealed today contains disturbing allegations of high-risk dispensing practices by the defendants. Given the national public health emergency resulting from the opioid crisis in our nation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will use every resource at our disposal, including seeking injunctive relief and civil monetary penalties as we have here, to stop pharmacies and pharmacists from continuing to abuse their dispensing authority to fuel this epidemic.”
The Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s local Field Division stated, “The action supported today by the Drug Enforcement Administration should serve as a warning to those in the pharmacy industry who choose to put profit over customer safety. Pharmacists serve on the front lines of America’s opioid epidemic and they share responsibility with physicians to protect those whom they serve from the dangers associated with prescription medications. We will be vigilant in holding them accountable.”
If you or a loved one were harmed as a result of a medical provider inapppropiately prescribing opioids or other drugs, you should promptly consult with a local medical malpractice lawyer in your U.S. state who may investigate your drug claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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