North Andover Psychiatrist Settles Drug Diversion Allegations
BOSTON - The U.S. Attorney’s Office reached a $20,000 civil settlement today with Dr. Richard Heller, a psychiatrist in North Andover, Mass., in connection with his uncontrolled storage of patient medication in a self-storage unit and his related failure to maintain proper records.
In settlement documents, Dr. Heller admitted to failing to maintain readily retrievable records of controlled substances, failing to conduct required biennial inventories, and failing to maintain complete and accurate records of controlled substances at his office and self-storage unit. An investigation revealed that Dr. Heller was improperly taking back unused medications from his patients, leaving those medications in various unsecured locations within his office, and failing to keep records of those medications, as required by regulations. In addition, investigators learned in May 2015 that Dr. Heller had been maintaining a substantial amount of unused medications for which he did not have accurate records in a North Andover self-storage unit. That storage unit was not registered with the Drug Enforcement (DEA), and the contents of the unit were subject to possible auction as a result of Dr. Heller’s failure to make timely rental payments.
“Ensuring the proper handling of prescription drugs is a critical part of our ongoing efforts to protect patient safety and prevent drug diversion,” said United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz. “We will continue to monitor those handling controlled substances, whether they are large pharmacy chains or solo physician practices, to insist that they adhere to these regulations in conducting business.”
“DEA registrants are responsible to handle controlled substances and ensure that complete and accurate records are being properly kept and accounted for in compliance with the Controlled Substance Act,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Ferguson. “Our obligation is to improve public safety and public health, and we are committed to working with our law enforcement and regulatory partners to ensure that these rules and regulations are followed.”
“The North Andover Police Department aggressively investigates all reports of potential drug diversion that could result in the misuse and abuse of pharmaceuticals,” said Chief Paul J. Gallagher of the North Andover Police Department. “To that end, we will continue to work with our federal, state, local and community partners to help mitigate the severe negative consequences of drug abuse and addiction present in Massachusetts and throughout the Northeast.”
Dr. Heller has agreed to pay $20,000 to settle these claims and to permit the DEA to perform four administrative inspections of his office over the course of the next two years without a warrant. Michael J. Ferguson Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration for New England, U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Chief Paul J. Gallagher of the North Andover Police Department, made the announcement.