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California State Pharmacy Board Struggling to Inspect Shady Pharmacies

David W. Hodges
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Partner at Kennedy Hodges LLP practicing pharmacy error, medical malpractice and personal injury law
Posted on Feb 05, 2013

There is no denying that there are many prescription drug addicts in this nation who will do anything—even drive hundreds of miles—to get their fix. And it appears Pacifica Pharmacy, a tiny pharmacy in Huntington Beach, California, served many customers high doses of pain medications. In fact, the Los Angeles Times reported that Pacifica’s owner, Thang Q. “Frank” Tran filled almost double the amount of prescriptions for 80-milligram tablets of OxyContin than nearby Walgreens, CVS, and Sav-On pharmacies combined.

One client drove from Arizona State University in Tempe to get his prescription filled at this pharmacy. However, he isn’t a unique case. Pacifica Pharmacy serviced many clients who traveled long distances and paid cash for pain pills. Sadly, pharmacists like Tran continue to enable drug abusers by providing them with their drugs, no questions asked.

Pharmacists are supposed to review both the prescription and the customer before dispensing a drug. If a pharmacist feels like the patient has no medical need for that drug, he or she can refuse to dispense it. In Tran’s case, he was filling too many prescriptions for painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs for addicts. Because of this fact as well as case testimony, the State Board of Pharmacy found “clear and convincing evidence” that Tran had improperly dispensed narcotics at his pharmacy and revoked his license. Tran is now appealing the revocation of his license.

While disciplining corrupt pharmacists falls to the 37 investigators of the California Board of Pharmacy, they are struggling to keep up due to the increase in pharmacies and licensees. Most state pharmacy boards do not have the funding or the appropriate number of agents to inspect a sufficient number of pharmacies every year. According to records, 318 million prescriptions were filled by California’s 42,000 pharmacists last year. Sadly, prescriptions for OxyContin, Dilaudid and other painkillers have increased 52% over the past five years.

According to the Board, Pacifica isn’t alone. In 2007, Burbank Medical Pharmacy filled 85 prescriptions for pain medications in a single day, for which none of the doctors or patients were from the Burbank area. And, in another example, Jay Scott Drugs was ordering more than 100,000 hydrocodone pills per month, which is a very large amount for a small pharmacy.

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