OAK HILL, W.Va. — Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration began raiding the Oak Hill Hometown Pharmacy Thursday morning in Fayette County as the pharmacy faces civil charges.
Mike Stuart, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, stood alongside DEA officials Thursday morning at the Robert C. Byrd Federal Courthouse in Charleston to announce the pharmacy has had their DEA certificate of registration suspended for prescription drug abuse.
Stuart said the message is clear that prescribing controlled drugs is a privilege and not a right.
“Every pharmacy that fills prescriptions of scheduled narcotics has a corresponding responsibility to assure that those prescriptions do not include unresolvable red flags and are for a legitimate medical purpose,” he said.
The suspension is based on improper dispensing from at least December 2016 to March 2019, of certain prescription drugs including Subutex, an opioid replacement.
The order said “Pursuant to Sections 303 and 304 of the Controlled Substances Act, Title 21, United States Code, Sections 823 and 824, Oak Hill Hometown Pharmacy has had its DEA Certificate of Registration suspended because it constitutes an ‘imminent danger to the public health or safety.'”
Stuart’s office said the pharmacy filled approximately 2,000 prescriptions for Subutex, a widely-abused Schedule III narcotic, with numerous red flags and diversion. The pharmacy is registered with the DEA to handle substances in Schedules II through V.
The red flags according to the DEA were over half the prescriptions came from an out-of-state clinic located almost 200 miles away from its 819 Main Street East location Oak Hill. The pharmacy’s customers drove long distances to obtain and fill prescriptions, in some cases more than 600 miles. Stuart also said many of those customers paid in cash.
Stuart’s office revealed more details about the prescriptions that included they were issued by out-of-state physicians and approximately 96-percent of the prescriptions were paid for in cash. Added that multiple patients frequently presented prescriptions that had been written on the same day and the patients traveled long distances for even partial refills.
The suspension of the pharmacy’s registration will continue until a final determination is reached. During the suspension of the pharmacy, under the ownership of Martin Njoku, it may not fill any prescriptions for Schedule II through Schedule V narcotics.
Stuart said regular patients at the pharmacy will be directed to state Department of Health and Human Resources to get prescriptions filled.
“It’s very important the folks who have legitimate prescriptions be able to get those prescriptions,” he said. “We don’t want anybody to go without essential medicines needed for their health.”
There is a possibility of criminal charges down the road but currently it remains civil charges, according to Stuart.
“Oak Hill Hometown Pharmacy will have an opportunity to show cause before the DEA at a location to be determined on October 15, 2019, as to why its registration should not be revoked,” Stuart said.
The release stated that within 30 days after the date the pharmacy received its Order to Show Cause and Immediate Suspension of Registration, the pharmacy may file a written request for a hearing or file a waiver of hearing with a written statement regarding its perspective on the matters of fact and law involved in the Order.
Failure to do so results in the pharmacy waiving its right to a hearing and a final order may be issued.