A pair of Connecticut pharmacies have reached civil settlement agreements with the federal government over allegations that they fraudulently filled prescriptions. The two pharmacies will pay a combined $90,000 to settle the accusations.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut, Howe’s Pharmacy of Milford and Nelson’s Pharmacy of Naugatuck violated civil provisions of the federal Controlled Substances Act.
Specifically, the allegations against Howe’s Pharmacy in Milford claim that pharmacists filled prescriptions without exercising their corresponding responsibility to ensure that the prescriptions were issued for a medically appropriate reason.
Further, the pharmacists allegedly failed to verify that prescriptions issued for certain controlled substances contained the signature of a prescribing physician and failed to ensure that a filled prescription contained the DEA number of the authorizing medical practitioner.
A DEA number is a number assigned to health care providers by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration allowing them to write prescriptions for controlled substances. Legally, the DEA number is solely to be used for tracking controlled substances. It is often used by the industry, however, as a general “prescriber number” that is a unique identifier for anyone who can prescribe medication.
Howe’s Pharmacy also allegedly filled a prescription for “office use” rather than issuing a prescription to an identifiable person and, in several instances, filled a postdated prescription. To settle the allegations, Howe’s Pharmacy agreed to pay $50,000 to the federal government. As part of the settlement terms, the pharmacy did not admit to any medical or pharmacy malpractice.
Howe’s Pharmacy was represented by attorney Michael Kogut, who could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, Nelson’s Pharmacy in Naugatuck was accused of failing to insure that prescriptions it filled contained an authorized practitioner’s DEA number, and the failure to account for accurate inventories of Oxycodone 10 milligram tablets, Oxycodone 15 milligram tablets, Oxycodone 30 milligram tablets and Endocet 10/325 tablets.
According to Naugatuck attorney N. Warren Hess, the accusations involving Nelson’s Pharmacy stemmed from acts committed by a long-time employee that ultimately resulted in her arrest. According to Naugatuck police, Michelle Hughes was arrested in October for the theft of Oxycodone pills. She was charged with third-degree larceny, a class D felony, and her case is pending in Waterbury Superior Court. She’s due back in court Jan. 6.
“Nelson’s Pharmacy has never had a problem in the past and this was limited to a theft by a trusted employee,” Hess told the Law Tribune. “We feel Nelson’s was a victim of a crime and they were. However, during the course of the investigation there were some discrepancies in their inventory and we agreed to pay a fine and have corrected everything. The [Drug Enforcement Administration] and the state of Connecticut are fully aware of the changes and are happy with the status of the inventory system in the pharmacy.”
Hess said the only missing pills in the pharmacy’s inventory were those taken by the employee. “There was no widespread issue of missing pills,” Hess said.
As part of the settlement agreement, Nelson’s Pharmacy agreed to pay $40,000 to the federal government. They, too, did not admit any medical or pharmacy malpractice as part of the settlement terms.
According to a press release from the Connecticut U.S. Attorney’s Office, Congress, in passing the Controlled Substances Act, took steps to attempt to create “a closed system” of distribution for controlled substances in which every facet of the handling of the substances, from their manufacture to their consumption by the ultimate user, was to be subject to intense governmental regulation.
These cases were handled by investigators from the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control in Rocky Hill and the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, Drug Control Division. The prosecutions were led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Soloway.