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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Tara Pharmacy SE, LLC has agreed to pay the United States $622,000 to resolve allegations that it violated the Controlled Substances Act by dispensing Schedule II controlled drugs without a valid prescription and violated the False Claims Act by submitting false claims to Medicare for these improperly dispensed drugs, announced U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona, Special Agent in Charge Tamala E. Miles of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, and DEA Special Agent in Charge Brad L. Byerley.
“Pharmacies that violate federal prescribing guidelines put their patients’ health at risk and contribute to the drug epidemic plaguing our communities. Since 2020, drug overdose deaths in Alabama have increased by more than 71%,” said United States Attorney Prim F. Escalona. “Law enforcement and public health agencies are committed to combatting any unlawful sources that distribute controlled substances into our communities.”
“Pharmacies that distribute controlled substances without legitimate prescriptions seriously endanger the well-being of their patients. In billing Medicare for inappropriately dispensed drugs, those pharmacies also divert federal funds needed to care for the program’s many beneficiaries,” said Special Agent in Charge Tamala E. Miles of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. “Our agency will continue to collaborate with our law enforcement partners to thoroughly investigate allegations of such activity.”
“Prescription drug abuse is a serious public health crisis that harms families and communities,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brad L. Byerley. “DEA Registrants, like Tara Pharmacy, who violate their duties will be held accountable for allowing these medications to get into the wrong hands. This settlement agreement is the result of DEA’s continued commitment to work with the United States Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners and hold accountable those who participate in illegally diverting controlled substances.”
Tara Pharmacy is a specialty pharmacy located in Homewood, Alabama, that provides pharmacy services for long-term care facilities located in Alabama and Georgia. Tara Pharmacy filled prescriptions for controlled substances listed in Schedule II under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule II drugs, such as oxycodone, can cause significant harm if used improperly and have a high potential for abuse.
The agreement settled allegations that Tara Pharmacy filled prescriptions for Schedule II controlled substances that lacked a valid, original physician signature and that Tara Pharmacy failed to get written prescriptions for Schedule II controlled substances within the required 7-day period after an emergency dispense.
The False Claims Act allegations resolved by today’s settlement were originally brought by Alex Sproule and Nicholas Fuhrmann, former employees of Tara Pharmacy, under the whistleblower provisions of the Act, which authorize private parties to sue on behalf of the United States and to receive a portion of any recovery. Mr. Sproule and Mr. Fuhrmann will receive $52,000 as their share of the settlement.
The settlement with Tara Pharmacy was the result of a coordinated effort among HHS-OIG, the DEA, and Assistant U.S Attorney Don Long.
The lawsuit is captioned United States ex rel. Sproule, et al., v. Aurora Cares LLC d/b/a Tara Cares, et al., 2:20-CV-217-AMM (N.D. Ala.) The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.