Colorado Pharmacy and Pharmacist Agree to Resolve Allegations that They Unlawfully Filled Dangerous Prescriptions for Controlled Substances
DENVER — The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado announced that People’s Pharmacy, Inc. and its owner and pharmacist-in-charge, Mahnaz Abharian, have agreed to resolve allegations that the pharmacy unlawfully dispensed controlled substances, including dangerous opioids and drug combinations.
People’s Pharmacy operated a pharmacy located in Lakewood, Colorado until July 2020. Ms. Abharian is the sole owner of People’s Pharmacy and served as the pharmacist-in-charge at the Lakewood location.
The United States alleges that People’s Pharmacy violated the Controlled Substances Act between January 2014 and July 2020 by unlawfully filling prescriptions despite the presence of red flags indicating that the prescriptions were not issued for legitimate medical purposes. The prescriptions filled included exceptionally high opioid dosages and dangerous drug combinations, which can depress the central nervous system and the ability to breathe. The United States alleges that these violations resulted in serious harms, including both overdose deaths and the unlawful diversion of prescription drugs onto the street.
As part of the settlement, People’s Pharmacy agreed to a $3.5 million civil penalty, which required it to pay all of its remaining assets. The pharmacy also agreed to permanently forgo holding a pharmacy license or Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration, which will prevent it from dispensing any controlled substances in the future. Ms. Abharian agreed that she will not dispense any controlled substances again in the future.
“People’s Pharmacy perpetuated the opioid crisis by ignoring red flags and knowingly and unlawfully dispensing Oxycodone that led to addiction and in some cases death. Pharmacists have a corresponding responsibility to ensure the legitimacy of the prescriptions they fill,” said DEA Rocky Mountain Division Acting Special Agent in Charge David Olesky. “This case highlights the DEA Rocky Mountain Division’s commitment and capabilities when it comes to investigating those believed to be improperly dispensing controlled substances and our efforts to reverse the poisoning and overdose crisis plaguing our region.”
“Pharmacies and pharmacists are the last line of defense against unlawful prescriptions,” said U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan. “They have an obligation to spot, and refuse to fill, unlawful prescriptions for dangerous drugs. When a pharmacist ignores red flags indicating that a prescription lacks a legitimate medical purpose, and fills the prescription anyway, there can be deadly consequences. We will protect our community by vigorously pursuing pharmacies and pharmacists that fail to follow the law, just as we do with prescribers who issue unlawful prescriptions.”
The claims against People’s Pharmacy and Ms. Abharian are allegations, and in agreeing to settle this matter, they did not admit to any liability.
This matter was investigated by the DEA’s Rocky Mountain Division and handled by Assistant United States Attorney David Moskowitz.