Magazine article FDA Consumer

Prescription for Jail Pharmacists Caught in Illegal Rx Drug Scheme

Magazine article FDA Consumer

Prescription for Jail Pharmacists Caught in Illegal Rx Drug Scheme

Article excerpt

He tried to compete with the big-name drugstore chains in his area, but what pharmacist Mohammad Hussain of Gaithersburg, Md., got was the big house in Morgantown, W. Va.

Hussain, 35, former owner of the Rock Creek Pharmacy in Silver Spring, Md., is serving three years in federal prison for buying and selling prescription drugs illegally, including many stolen from a local hospital. He violated federal law by removing the drugs from their original packaging and transferring them to drug containers bearing inaccurate labeling information, such as expiration dates and lot numbers, which are used to maintain drug safety and effectiveness.

A special agent with FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) who helped investigate the case said Hussain bought many of the drugs at half their wholesale value from a pharmacist friend who stole the drugs from the hospital where he worked.

One of Hussain's cohorts, Robert Mark, 41, of Adelphi, Md., a pharmacist who owned Rajon Pharmacy in Washington, D.C., also is serving time--one year and three months at the Petersburg, Va., Federal Correction Institute. A jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland convicted both men March 25, 1998, of illegally buying and selling a variety of prescription drugs, including the anti-ulcer drug Pepcid and the antibiotic Cipro. Hussain also was found guilty of fraudulently billing an insurance company for drugs never prescribed by a doctor and never intended for a patient.

Both pharmacists were sentenced in summer 1998. The Maryland Board of Pharmacy has since suspended Hussain's pharmacist license, though no action has been taken against Mark's license, according to a spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C., Board of Pharmacy.

Also, Rock Creek Pharmacy has closed down, and a call to Rajon Pharmacy was answered by a recording that the telephone number had been disconnected.

A third person, Patricia Brown, 58, of Silver Spring, Md., who served as an intermediary between both pharmacies, entered into a plea agreement March 9, 1998, before trial, agreeing to serve six months of home detention and five years' probation, as well as to undergo drug and alcohol treatment.

FDA's OCI entered the case in November 1996, after receiving a call from Montgomery County (Md.) Police. The police reported that they had arrested Jaspal Kochar, a pharmacist at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md., for stealing drugs from the hospital pharmacy. Secret videotaping had caught him in the act of removing controlled substances from the pharmacy's drug safe and putting them in his pocket.

Kochar, who awaits sentencing for his conviction, told police that one of his customers was Hussain, owner of a nearby neighborhood drugstore.

OCI agents executed a search warrant of Hussain's Rock Creek Pharmacy Feb. 10, 1997. During the search, Hussain confessed to OCI agents that he was buying drugs from Kochar and other sources, though he later refused to cooperate with government investigators.

Also during the search, Brown called to arrange a time for Hussain to pick up an order at Rajon Pharmacy that he had placed earlier. After taping the phone call, OCI agents sent an undercover agent posing as Hussain's driver to Mark's pharmacy to pick up the order. When the agent arrived at the pharmacy, he found an empty store and Mark behind a small glass partition.

Mark handed the agent a bag holding about five different prescription medicines in exchange for an envelope of cash. Some of the medicine bottles came with handwritten notes that listed only the name of the drug. Other bottles had no information.

OCI estimated that the drugs in the bag were worth thousands of dollars on the legitimate market, although based on the cash in the envelope, Hussain paid a lot less. …

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