Magazine article Drug Topics

Another Black Eye?

Magazine article Drug Topics

Another Black Eye?

Article excerpt

'PrimeTime Live' exposes R.Ph.s in diversion schemes

Last month, ABC's "PrimeTime Live" aired "Operation Poison Pill," a segment on a New York EState investigation that resulted in drug-diversion charges against 13 people, several of them pharmacists. Correspondent Chris Wallace followed undercover investigators from the state's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, who posed as traffickers of stolen prescription drugs.

According to the broadcast, the investigation began when Yonkers, N.Y., R.Ph. Stanley Robbins was caught peddling stolen Rx drugs at 20 New York City area pharmacies. Robbins agreed to cooperate with authorities by introducing an undercover investigator to his suppliers and his customers. Authorities learned that Robbins got his stolen inventory from Vickie Rossy, an assistant R.Ph. at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va., and her father Luis Rossy, also a pharmacist, who had been fired from Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn but still had access to the hospital's drug inventory.

Eventually the drugs-dumped into plastic bags with no record of batch numbers or expiration dates-wound up in a handful of independent retail pharmacies in outlying areas of New York City. Authorities said the profits, based on wholesale prices, were broken down into 50% for the Rossys and 25% for Robbins, with the buying pharmacist getting a 25% discount.

While viewers were likely alarmed at the idea of stolen and unregulated drugs winding up in their medicine cabinets, many in the pharmacy community were angered-and surprised-by the segment. "Anytime pharmacists purchase drugs outside a normal channel, they're putting the public at risk.... It's one of the most inappropriate and heinous things a pharmacist can do," said Lawrence H. Mokhiber, executive secretary of the New York State Board of Pharmacy. Because the cases stemming from the investigation are pending, Mokhiber could not comment on possible sanctions the board may take. But he said he felt "anger, frustration, and disappointment" watching the broadcast.

Craig Burridge, executive director of the Pharmaceutical Society of the State of New York, said that while he does not condone the pharmacists' actions, the sensationalized tone of the broadcast disturbed him. Wallace indicated that investigators peddling the black-market drugs found "most pharmacists were willing to deal," but Burridge noted that there was no mention of how many R.Ph.s turned down the offer.

"In the New York City area alone, there're probably 1,800 independent [pharmacies]," said Burridge. …

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