Drug Enforcement Administration

San Francisco

Christopher Nielsen, Special Agent in Charge

March 09, 2015

Contact: Casey Rettig

Phone Number: (415) 436-7994

Fresno Pharmacy Agrees To Pay $1 Million In Civil Penalties To Resolve Controlled Substances Act Claims

FRESNO, Calif. - Cedar Pharmacy has agreed to pay $1 million to settle claims that it failed to properly record hundreds of transactions involving controlled substances, failed to maintain complete and accurate records, and failed to follow prescription issuance guidelines in violation of the Controlled Substances (CSA), United States Attorney Benjamin Wagner announced.

An audit and investigation of Cedar Pharmacy began in April 2013 when a drug offender on probation was found to be in possession of approximately $9,000 in cash and 34 prescription receipts with different patient names and addresses. All of the prescription receipts were from Cedar Pharmacy. The prescriptions, which were primarily for oxycodone, had been written by Dr. Jose Luis Flores who surrendered his medical license on April 16, 2014, following an investigation by the Medical Board of California. Cedar Pharmacy disclosed that the prescriptions had been filled a month earlier for a man who had paid in cash and had brought in 30 different driver’s licenses.

Cedar Pharmacy has also agreed to comply with a detailed action plan developed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Per the action plan, employees who handle controlled substances must immediately complete a training program that addresses methods of detecting and preventing diversion as well as the requirements of federal law that a prescription may not be filled when a pharmacist has reason to know that it was issued for other than a legitimate medical purpose or by a practitioner acting outside the usual course of professional practice.

Should Cedar Pharmacy successfully complete the terms of the action plan and have no material violations, the United States will reduce the amount ultimately paid in settlement. The payment and action plan resolve the United States’ claims that Cedar Pharmacy violated the CSA.

“The abuse of prescription painkillers has become epidemic,” said United States Attorney Wagner. “The Controlled Substances Act is a tool to assist the DEA with better monitoring the movement of prescription drugs to end users. When pharmacies are lax in their record keeping or supervision of their drug-dispensing operations as required by the CSA, opportunities arise for the diversion of powerful drugs to unintended users who may be injured by them. Our office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate these cases and enforce federal law.”

“This significant civil penalty demonstrates our commitment to preventing the diversion of these substances by holding those accountable who are responsible for their distribution. The public can report illicit pharmaceutical activities online at www.DEAdiversion.usdoj.gov,” stated DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Bruce C. Balzano. “The successful outcome of this investigation represents cooperation between DEA, the Clovis Police Department, Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, Kings County Sheriff’s Office and the California State Board of Pharmacy.”

Assistant United States Attorney Marilee L. Miller prosecuted the case.

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