A federal court enjoined a Cumberland, Maryland, pharmacy and its owner and pharmacist from dispensing controlled substances, including opioids, without taking specific steps to help ensure the drugs will not be abused or diverted, and ordered them to pay a $120,000 civil penalty.

The court’s order, entered pursuant to a consent decree of permanent injunction, resolves a complaint filed by the United States on June 16 alleging that Beckman’s Greene Street Pharmacy and its owner and pharmacist-in-charge, John A. Beckman, filled hundreds of prescriptions in violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The complaint alleges that the defendants ignored obvious “red flags” of drug abuse, drug diversion, and drug-seeking behavior. For example, according to the complaint, the defendants repeatedly filled prescriptions for dangerously large doses and high-risk combinations of controlled substances known to be sought by drug abusers and which significantly increase the risk of overdose. The complaint alleges that the defendants frequently filled prescriptions for an opioid known as buprenorphine in a form that did not include the abuse-deterrent component with which it is ordinary prescribed. The complaint further alleges that the defendants often dispensed controlled substances to patients who lived long distances from the pharmacy or who paid in cash despite the availability of insurance. According to the complaint, at least 10 patients died within 10 days of having controlled substance prescriptions filled at Beckman’s Greene Street Pharmacy.

“Pharmacies and pharmacists have an obligation to prevent the illegal dispensing of controlled substances,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The department will work with its law enforcement partners to hold responsible those who dispense potentially dangerous prescription drugs in violation of the law.”

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“Those who fill and dispense controlled substances prescriptions, including for opioids, without fulfilling their responsibilities, fan the flames of the ongoing opioid epidemic,” said U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron for the District of Maryland. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland will use all tools at its disposal — criminal and civil — to hold responsible those who violate the CSA.”

“The devastating effects of opioid overdoses and poisonings have affected many lives in our local communities,” said Special Agent in Charge Jarod Forget of the DEA Washington Division. “Health care providers have a great responsibility as it relates to dispensing medications to meet the health needs of our citizens. This includes being vigilant for any signs of controlled substance diversion or misuse. Our team is committed to protecting the safety and health of all Americans, which includes ensuring that all licensed professionals comply with the law and report dangerous behaviors.”

Beckman and Beckman’s Greene Street Pharmacy agreed to be bound by the consent decree. The injunction entered by U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby for the District of Maryland prohibits the defendants from filling certain “red flag” prescriptions and requires the defendants to fill other prescriptions only with documentation justifying those prescriptions. 

DEA Special Agent Thomas W. Adams of the Washington Division’s Hagerstown Resident Office investigated the case along with the Washington Division’s Baltimore Diversion Group. Senior Litigation Counsel Donald R. Lorenzen of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan C. Lazerow for the District of Maryland handled the case.

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