A Baltimore-based pharmacy and pharmacist have agreed to pay $15,000 in penalty and adhere to “corrective action” in a case that involves allegedly filling dozens of fraudulent prescriptions despite red flags.
The United States entered into a consent decree with Ketan K. Dankhara and Falls RX LLC, doing business as Ultra Care Pharmacy Baltimore, which means the case was resolved without Dankhara and the pharmacy admitting guilt.
United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron and Special Agent in Charge Jarod A. Forget of the Drug Enforcement Administration for the Washington Field Division announced the settlement Thursday. U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett approved the consent decree.
“The filing of this meritless civil action against a pharmacy and pharmacist — both with unblemished professional records — who worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure an uninterrupted supply of medication to the Baltimore community demonstrates just how far the pendulum has swung against community pharmacy,” attorney Anthony J. Mahajan said in an email.
Dankhara allegedly violated the Controlled Substances Act by repeatedly filling illegitimate prescriptions between at least May to September 2020 at the pharmacy on 4419 Falls Road B in Baltimore’s Hoes Heights neighborhood.
His clients were actually targeted by a sophisticated criminal scheme, Mahajan said, and cooperated with the DEA.
An individual came into the pharmacy and tried to file dozens of prescriptions for a number of people, many of whom had never been to the pharmacy, according to a news release.
At least several dozen of these prescriptions were fraudulent and were for the same drug, strength and quantity, according to the release. They were also from the same prescriber, and some were prescribed by an OB/GYN to men.
These “red flags” should have acted as “warning signs” that the prescriptions were fake, but Dankhara ignored them and failed to investigate, according to the release. He also allegedly lied about talking with the prescriber but later changed his story.
“Rather than clear and established legal standards, the industry is now subject to post hoc and arbitrary claims by government regulators as to purported “red flags,” Mahajan said.
Pharmacists and pharmacies assume a critical gatekeeping function to prevent the diversion of controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act, Barron said.
“Just as prescribers cannot use their prescription pad as a blank checkbook to write prescriptions for controlled substances, the CSA and its regulations make clear that pharmacists have a corresponding responsibility to ensure the legitimacy of the prescriptions they fill,” he said in the release.
Such cases fuel Maryland’s drug addiction epidemic, Barron added.
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“When pharmacists ignore ‘red flags,’ their dispensing contributes to the opioid epidemic,” Forget said. “We at the DEA are working hard, every day, to investigate such behavior, and keep our communities safe.”
In addition to paying the $15,000 civil monetary penalty under the consent decree, Dankhara and the pharmacy are required to identify red flags, such as the ones he’s accused of ignoring.
The DEA can shut down the business if Dankhara and the pharmacy violate provisions in the consent decree, according to the release.