Federal agents have raided a pharmacy in Seattle and one in Bellingham – owned by the same people – on suspicion the drugs stores were illegally giving returned drugs to elderly customers without their knowledge.  No charges have yet been filed in the case.

The raids were conducted on Jan. 6 and Jan. 9 on the Scrips LTC Pharmacy in Seattle and Custom Prescription Shoppe in Bellingham. Agents seized pills and other material.

“The pharmacies are engaged in the business of providing drug products to patients residing in boarding homes and adult family homes in several counties in Western Washington,” Food and Drug Administration special agent Jim Burkhardt said in a court document.  

“The drugs are delivered to the boarding homes and adult family homes by drivers employed by the pharmacy,” he added. “The investigation has developed evidence that drivers routinely collect unused drug products, including prescription drug and controlled substances, previously dispensed to patients from these various homes and return the drugs to the pharmacy. The investigation has developed evidence that those returned drugs are being re-used to fill other patient prescriptions.”

Burkhardt noted the practice violates both federal and state law and “poses a significant safety risk to the patients who received these re-used drug products.”

He said in the court document that there is also evidence the pharmacies are filling and selling prescriptions with drug samples they receive free of charge.

He said there is also evidence the pharmacies are “defrauding” Medicare, Medicaid and other health care benefits programs “as it is billing more than once (double billing) for the same drug products.”

Ballard pharmacist Mike Donohue said it is not only illegal to resell drugs, but it’s unsafe because there’s no way to know if the medicine has been tampered with or how potent it still is.

“It can be very dangerous,” Donohue said. “Certainly there are situations where people get lucky and they take those medications, and they're OK, but we don't really want to deal in the realm of lucky when we're dealing with powerful medications like we have behind the counter today.”

The federal investigation was launched last August after a state Department of Health pharmacy inspector who had spoken with a former manager for Scrips.

Scrips was still in business Thursday.  The owner had no comment on the federal raid or the investigation.