Pharmacy Linked to Prescription Drug Fraud in Oklahoma

A pharmacy in Sulphur, Oklahoma, has been linked to a prescription drug fraud scheme allegedly perpetrated by six nursing home employees in the small town.  According to an "order to show cause" filed by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, Larry's Pharmacy filled at least 72 illegal prescriptions between June 2010 and January 2012.   The majority of the prescriptions were for the powerful narcotic painkiller Hydrocodone, but fraudulent prescriptions also included those for Phentermine. Phentermine is a Schedule IV drug that is  chemically and pharmacologically related to amphetamine and similar stimulant drugs with high potential for abuse. Hydrocodone is a Schedule III drug, a frequently abused opiate painkiller whose popularity has increased as Schedule II painkillers such as oxycodone are more difficult to obtain. An unlicensed pharmacy technician is allegedly responsible for filling the majority of the illegal prescriptions, many of which were filed by employees of Callaway Nursing Home who were subsequently arrested for prescription drug fraud and illegally diverting prescription drugs. In July, six nursing home employees were arrested in Sulphur after they were accused of illegally obtaining and diverting more than 9,000 dosage units of prescription drugs.  More than 8,400 of these dosage units were for hydrocodone.  According to officials, no patient medications were diverted for street sale; all were from fraudulent prescriptions called in by employees abusing their positions. Many of these fake prescriptions were called in to Mercy Szalaj, an unlicensed pharmacy technician who told authorities that she did not verify prescriptions and that she assumed them to be legitimate.  Larry Hobbs, managing pharmacist for Larry's Pharmacy, admitted that Szalaj may have been given too much responsibility and too little oversight.   Neither Szalaj nor Hobbs has been criminally charged.  However, pharmacy representatives must appear before the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control later this month to demonstrate that the agency should not take action against it. Callaway Nursing Home employees charged with conspiracy to obtain controlled substances by fraud include:

  • Jackie Allen Alexander, 63, Director of Nursing at Callaway
  • Melanie A. Kirby, 39, Assistant Director of Nursing for Callaway
  • Angela Ford, 33
  • Carrie Billings, 41
  • Sierra D. Williams, 23
  • Mackenzie Digby, 30
Billings, Williams, and Digby have also been charged with Medicare fraud in connection with the case. While methamphetamine is one of the most abused drugs in Oklahoma, prescription drug abuse is increasingly alarming to law enforcement officials and health care professionals.   Prescription drug fraud takes these controlled substances and places them in the hands of those who cannot obtain a valid prescription for their drug of choice.  Being charged with Medicare fraud or prescription drug fraud is a serious offense.  An Oklahoma fraud lawyer or drug lawyer can handle your defense.

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