Internet Pharmacy Shut Down
(New Orleans, Louisiana) – William J. Renton, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans Field Division, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today announced the closure and Immediate Suspension of the Federal Controlled Substance Registration of the Elite Pharmacy, Inc.
For more than a year, Elite Pharmacy, Inc., 10017 Jefferson Highway, Suite 101, River Ridge, Louisiana, has been the subject of an investigation that determined that it had filled approximately 500 to 600 prescriptions per day which were obtained from multiple Internet websites. The vast majority of the prescriptions were issued for controlled substances, and were authorized by physicians who practiced medicine outside the State of Louisiana. According to the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy (LBP), Elite’s method of prescribing controlled substances was much different than its original license application in January, 2005 claiming it would be a closed door pharmacy serving long-term care facilities.
Elite dispensed inordinate amounts of controlled substances to Internet customers throughout the United States. Within Elite’s first three months in business from January 20, 2005 to March 2005, Elite became the fifth top purchaser of hydrocodone in the State of Louisiana. Elite purchased 4,595,400 dosage units of hydrocodone from January through December 2005. This was approximately 50 times more than the national average for pharmacy purchases of hydrocodone and approximately 40 times more that the average for such pharmacy purchases in the State of Louisiana.
Elite’s average monthly hydrocodone purchases for the first eight months of 2006 increased by 20 percent more than their average monthly purchases for the entire year of 2005. In fact, Elite’s hydrocodone purchases from January 1, 2006 to August 31, 2006, were the highest in the State of Louisiana and were more than double those of the next highest hydrocodone purchaser in the State of Louisiana. Also, Elite was the tenth highest purchaser of hydrocodone in the United States for the same period. During audits of Elite’s controlled substance records, investigators found shortages for Alprazolam (Xanax), and hydrocodone. On three different occasions, audits of the pharmacy showed wide variances in the amounts of drugs ordered, on-hand and dispensed.
Elite would dispense, controlled substances to customers, whose prescriptions Elite received by logging onto an Internet website, despite substantial evidence that the prescriptions were written by practitioners who did not have a doctor-patient relationship with the customer to whom Elite was dispensing controlled substances. Thus, the controlled substances dispensed by Elite were based on “prescriptions” issued for other then a legitimate medical purpose and outside the course of professional conduct. For example, Elite filled numerous prescriptions that were authorized by the same physician, on the same day, for multiple Internet customers who did not reside in the state in which the physician resided. Also, Elite filled large quantities of prescriptions per day, per physician; and the prescriptions were for disproportionate amounts of one or two types of highly addictive and abused controlled substances.
On June 12, 2006, Elite filled 501 controlled substance prescriptions for 11 out-of-state physicians and one in-state physician. On June 14, 2006, Elite filled 423 controlled substance prescriptions for 11 out-of-state physicians and one in-state physician. On June 16, 2006, Elite filled 460 controlled substance prescriptions to 10 out-of-state physicians and three in-state physicians. On June 27, 2006, Elite filled 365 prescriptions for 11 out-of-state physicians. Elite knew, or should have known that these prescriptions were not issued “for a legitimate medical purpose by an individual practitioner acting in the usual course of his professional practice”.
Hydrocodone is the generic name of an addictive prescription painkiller that is classified under federal narcotics laws as a Schedule III controlled substance. When hydrocodone is legally prescribed for a legitimate medical purpose, it is typically used to combat acute, severe pain. Accordingly, the prescription is for a modest number of pills to be taken over a short period of time. Alprazolam is the generic name for the popular anti-anxiety drug Xanax, a Schedule IV controlled substance.
A criminal investigation into this manner is continuing, and resulted in the issuance and execution of a Federal Search Warrant today. When the investigation is completed, the facts developed will be presented to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The investigation is being conducted by the DEA Baton Rouge Task Force group and DEA Diversion Investigators.