MedFast Pharmacist Sentenced to Prison for Misbranded Drug Scheme
PITTSBURGH, PA - A resident of Butler County, Pennsylvania, has been sentenced in federal court to one year and one day incarceration on his conviction of conspiracy, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.
United States District Judge Arthur J. Schwab imposed the sentence on Gino Cordisco, 48, of Mars, Pennsylvania.
According to information presented to the court, the Pennsylvania Board of Pharmacy prohibits pharmacists from restocking medications that have left the pharmacy’s control. These medications must be destroyed. According to the FDCA, if a prescription or a container of stock drugs falsely describes the lot numbers, expiration dates or manufacturers, then the drugs are rendered/deemed misbranded. For example, when pills that left the pharmacy are returned and comingled with stock drugs instead of being destroyed, and the required labeling on stock containers does not accurately state the actual manufacturer, date of expiration and lot number, then the drugs in the stock container or prescription package are misbranded. Misbranded drugs are illegal contraband and cannot be sold.
Cordisco, a pharmacist, was the supervisor over a chain of several pharmacies known as MedFast Pharmacies. He reported directly to its owner, Doug Kaleugher, not a defendant herein. Most of the conduct that supports the charges occurred at MedFast Institutional Pharmacy, 2003 Sheffield Road, in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania.
MedFast Institutional Pharmacy supplied nursing home chains with individualized medication packages for the patients/residents. If the nursing home had unused pills from prescriptions filled by MedFast or other pharmacies from, for example, a resident passing or a change in medications, MedFast delivery drivers were instructed to collect the unused medications and return them to MedFast. Once these drugs were returned to MedFast, the drugs would be removed from their packaging and returned to stock. As a result, pills with different lot numbers, different expiration dates and different manufacturers were comingled. These comingled pills were thereafter used to fill new prescriptions. The defendant was the leader and organizer of this criminal conduct. The immediate supervisor of the MedFast Institutional Pharmacy, Correna Pfeiffer, who reported directly to the defendant, was responsible for carrying out this policy on a day-to-day basis. She was previously sentenced to a term of probation.
The Court was also made aware that in October 2011 the defendant arranged for a surveillance technician to focus a hidden camera on an employee suspected of stealing drugs. Upon reviewing the video and doing an inventory, the defendant realized that Jade Gagianas had stolen 100 Opana ER 40 mg. The defendant took Gagianas to a back room and questioned her about the theft. She eventually admitted to this theft as well as additional thefts that had taken place in the past. She told the defendant that she gave the Opana to her boyfriend, David Best. The defendant told Gagianas that he wanted the drugs back and told her to call Best to ask him to return them. Gagianas made the call, but Best would not bring them back for fear of getting arrested. The defendant told Best he would contact the police if Best did not agree to return the stolen Opana. After about two hours, Best showed up at the pharmacy but did not have the drugs in his possession. Best told Gagianas where he had hidden the drugs down the street. The defendant took Gagianas and drove to the location where Best said he had hidden the drugs. The drugs were recovered by Gagianas from a bush in front of a convent. The defendant took the Opana pill vial from Gagianas and observed that the seal had been broken on the prescription vial. He returned to the pharmacy with it. The drugs had been out of the possession of the pharmacy from between 2 and 6 hours. Knowing that the drugs had been stolen, had been in the hands of a drug dealer, that they were recovered from a bush after being gone from the pharmacy from between 2 and 6 hours, the defendant thereafter ordered another pharmacist to restock the Opana. The Schedule II log of the pharmacy reflected that 79 Opana pills were restocked. Jade Gagianas was fired that day by the defendant for stealing Opana.
The defendant was interviewed by DEA Special Agent Vijay Nemani on May 29, 2013. SA Nemani asked the defendant if there had ever been any diversion of pharmaceutical or disciplinary problems of any current or former employees. The defendant stated there were "none that he knew of." This statement was not true.
SA Nemani then asked the defendant about any former employees and he stated Jade Gagianas worked there as a Pharmacy Technician for a while and that her boyfriend had drug issues. The defendant stated Gagianas quit awhile back claiming she was "stressed out." The defendant stated Gagianas quit her job but was not fired or let go. This statement was not true.
SA Nemani asked the defendant pointedly if there were any instances of any current or former employees, at the Baden pharmacy, where the employee had stolen controlled substances and then was asked to return the controlled substances to the pharmacy. The defendant stated that he was not aware of any instances. This statement was not true.
SA Nemani also asked if there were any current or former employees that had been fired or asked to resign as a result of the diversion of controlled substances and the defendant stated, "no." This statement was not true.
The government had no evidence that any patient was harmed in any way as a result of any of the conduct described herein.
Assistant United States Attorney Nelson P. Cohen prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.
The United States Attorney commended the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-OCI, the Drug Enforcement Administration-Diversion Investigators and the U.S. Health and Human Services-OIG for the investigation that led to a successful prosecution of Gino Cordisco.