Former Nurse Found Guilty of Fraudulently Obtaining and Tampering with Opioid Pain Killer Sentenced to 36 Months in Federal Prison
SALT LAKE CITY – A Utah pharmacy is accused of dispensing thousands of highly addictive controlled substances in violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in a newly filed federal lawsuit, U.S. Attorney John W. Huber announced today. The complaint was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.
Ridley’s Family Markets, Inc., a corporate-owned supermarket and pharmacy chain, is accused of failing to recognize “red flags” of improper and illegitimate prescriptions. Ridley’s operates 31 grocery stores and two stand-alone pharmacies in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and Nevada.
A pharmacy owned by Ridley’s in Morgan, Utah, became the subject of a DEA investigation after it was discovered that Ridley’s filled 160 forged and fraudulent prescriptions for two of its regular customers. The United States alleges in its complaint that the customers’ actions were so obviously fraudulent that any reasonable pharmacist would have prevented the illegal diversion of dangerous opioids and other controlled substances by properly following the provisions set forth by the CSA.
The Morgan location is the second pharmacy owned by Ridley’s to be accused of this conduct. A Ridley’s pharmacy located in Casper, Wyoming, is also alleged to have filled more than 200 illegitimate prescriptions written by a now convicted pill-pushing doctor.
The actions sought in this complaint are part of the ongoing efforts made by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah and its federal law enforcement partners to combat the opioid crisis through criminal prosecutions and civil actions.
The lawsuit alleges Ridley’s shirked its responsibility as the “last line of defense between powerful controlled substances with high potential for abuse and the people seeking them.” In addition to overlooking obviously altered paper prescriptions, Ridley’s turned a blind eye to numerous “red flag” warnings of drug abuse and diversion, including: 1) filling prescriptions not within the scope of the prescriber’s practice; 2) unusual levels of cash sales; 3) prescriptions for the same drugs in multiple strengths; 4) prescriptions for daily doses higher than medically necessary; 5) similar or duplicate prescriptions written for more than one family member residing at the same address; and 6) prescriptions for drug combinations well-known in the medical and pharmacy community as carrying a high risk for drug abuse, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit alleges that Ridley’s employees not only failed to comply with CSA protocol, they failed to follow their own minimal safeguards. Following this protocol would have prevented the diversion of thousands of dangerous opioids.
Dispensing drugs in violation of the CSA carries a civil penalty of up to $67,627 per violation. The complaint alleges “hundreds” of violations by Ridley’s with just these two customers. In addition to civil penalties, the United States seeks injunctive relief to restrain Ridley’s violations of the CSA.
The claims asserted against the defendants are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.