In 2015, the owner and pharmacist-in-charge of Lane Pharmacy passed away. The Pharmacy, however, carried on as nothing had happened. Allegedly, the Pharmacy continued to operate without a pharmacist. This “unusual” Pharmacy operated until 2017, when the California Board of Pharmacy received a complaint that non-licensed individuals were dispensing medications. The Board investigation revealed that pharmacy technicians continued to operate the pharmacy after its owner’s death and that these non-pharmacists purchased and signed for drug deliveries, including controlled substances.

To determine the amount of controlled substances purchased and illegally dispensed, the Board partnered with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The joint investigation showed that the pharmacy purchased its controlled substances mostly through Cardinal Health (dba Parmed Pharmaceuticals LLC).

On March 1, 2019, the Board filed Accusation against Cardinal alleging violations of:

  • Health & Safety Code 11209: no person shall deliver controlled substances to a pharmacy unless a pharmacist signs a receipt; and
  • 16 Cal. Code of Regulations 1783(a): a wholesaler must furnish dangerous drugs only to an authorized person. Prior to furnishing dangerous drugs to an unknown person, the wholesaler shall contact the Board to confirm that the recipient is an authorized person.

The Board alleges that Cardinal delivered the drugs despite obvious red flags: the former pharmacist no longer accepted the deliveries, and instead deliveries were signed by several people using the deceased pharmacist’s name. Cardinal allegedly failed to spot this issue or failed to inquire into the suspicious activity.

The case illustrates that proper policies and procedures on drug delivery and training staff on spotting red flags is a must if you operate a wholesale pharmacy business.  To avoid similar allegations from the Board (and potentially DEA), a wholesaler must document who accepts the products and scrutinize any deviations from the standard procedure.