On 15th January 2021, the Department of Justice announced that an Ohio federal court gave a temporary restraining order prohibiting a pharmacy based in Toledo, Ohio, and two of its pharmacists from supplying opioids and other controlled substances.
In a civil suit filed on 6th January 2021, and opened on 14th January 2021, in Ohio’s Northern District, the United States purported that Shaffer Pharmacy, Thomas Tadsen, its pharmacist and owner, and Wilson Bunton, a pharmacist, frequently distributed opioids and other controlled substances in breach of the Controlled Substances Statute. The case purported that over a duration of numerous years, the accused people distributed highly abused and highly addictive prescription opioids while disregarding “red flags”; that is, clear signs of drug diversion and drug-seeking conduct. Jack Zouhary, United States District Judge, approved the government’s appeal for a temporary restraining order, which was filed together with the case.
The Justice Department – Civil Division Acting Assistant Attorney General Jennifer B. Dickey stated that federal law demands pharmacists to ensure that they fill medically legitimate controlled substance prescriptions. Acting Assistant Attorney General Jennifer B. Dickey further added that Justice Department would continue to partner with DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) and other law enforcement partners to fight the opioid pandemic by holding liable and bringing to justice pharmacies that abandon their responsibilities.
Ohio’s Northern District Acting United States Attorney Bridget M. Brennan stated that the unlawful dispensing or prescribing of opioids by medical professionals only serves to advance and worsen the opioid crisis in northern Ohio and rise the number of deaths resulting from a drug overdose in the society. Acting United States Attorney Bridget M. Brennan further added that accusations of opioids prescription abuse continue to be the key priority for the attorney’s office, and criminals must expect serious consequences.
Special Agent Keith Martin in Charge for the Drug Enforcement Administration stated that distributing controlled substances is an honor that needs observing the law. Special Agent Keith Martin further added that the Drug Enforcement Administration is dedicated to ensuring that those who have sworn to abide by the nation’s drug laws live up to that obligation.
The FBI – Cleveland Division Special Agent in Charge Eric B. Smith stated that they continue to encounter a difficult battle against drug addiction and abuse, and it is absurd that a certified healthcare provider would promote this growing crisis. Special Agent in Charge Eric B. Smith further stated that limiting the ability of these accused people to continue filling medically unnecessary opioid prescriptions is a momentous step. Smith assured that the FBI would progress with efforts to find and hold liable any medical specialist that breaches their legal responsibility not to harm when they take part in criminal actions.
The case purported that the accused people never took steps required to settle red flags and ensure the medical necessity of prescriptions before prescribing them. As per the court documents, the prescriptions supplied by the accused people frequently included highly misused opioid painkillers like hydrocodone, buprenorphine, oxymorphone, oxycodone, and fentanyl, frequently in harmful mixture with other prescription medications like benzodiazepines (i.e., sedatives specified for anxiety treatment, like Xanax), and muscle relaxants (e.g., carisoprodol, also known as Soma). The case pursues civil penalties and a permanent ban against the accused people.
The claims entailed in the suit are merely accusations that the U.S. government should prove if the suit proceeds to trial.
The HHS (United States Department of Health and Human Services) – Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the Ohio Attorney General – Healthcare Fraud section, the FBI, the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy, DEA, and the Ohio Bureau of Workers – Compensation conducted the investigations for this case. Ohio’s Northern District United States Assistant Attorneys Angelita Cruz Bridges and Patricia Fitzgerald and the Justice Department – Consumer Protection Branch Trial Attorneys Maryann McGuire and Scott Dahlquist prosecuted the case.
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