WASHINGTON – A federal court entered a consent decree enjoining an Asheboro, North Carolina pharmacy and its two pharmacists from dispensing controlled substances, including opioids, without taking specific steps to help ensure the drugs will not be abused or diverted and ordering them to pay $300,000 in civil penalties, the Justice Department and U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina announced today.
The consent decree resolves a complaint filed by the United States on July 7, alleging that Asheboro Drug Company, and its pharmacists Isaac F. Brady III and Isaac F. Brady IV, a father and son, filled prescriptions in violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The complaint alleges that the defendants dispensed prescription opioids while disregarding numerous “red flags” – that is, obvious indications of drug abuse, drug diversion and drug-seeking behavior. For example, according to the complaint, 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 complaint alleged that the defendants also dispensed, at times, the same or similar prescriptions for multiple members of the same family, refilled prescriptions early without justification, and turned a blind eye to prescriptions from doctors who repeatedly wrote suspect prescriptions.
“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,” said 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 purposes 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 cooperated with the government’s investigation and agreed to pay the $300,000 civil monetary penalty and be bound by the consent decree of injunction. The injunction entered by U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Eagles of the Middle District of North Carolina prohibits the defendants from filling certain “red flag” prescriptions and requires the defendants to fill other orders only after receiving documentation justifying the prescriptions.
The government was represented by Senior Litigation Counsel Donald R. Lorenzen of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Cassie Crawford for the Middle District of North Carolina, with substantial assistance from Diversion Investigator Heidi Crater of the DEA Greensboro Resident Office’s Diversion Group.
Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts may be found at http://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.