BRUNSWICK, Maine — A Brunswick pharmacy has agreed to pay a $10,000 fine for faulty record-keeping practices involving controlled substances which came to light during an investigation into a former employee’s alleged theft of prescription drugs.
Medical Center Pharmacy’s attorney, Peter DeTroy of the Portland law firm Norman, Hanson and DeTroy, said Thursday the fine against the pharmacy was small in comparison to at least $140,000 in losses suffered by the business in an alleged theft scheme perpetrated by a former employee. The discovery of the former employee’s theft led to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency investigation and the federal charges against the pharmacy. Those charges have been dropped as a result of Thursday’s $10,000 settlement.
“They’ve been sort of twice victimized,” said DeTroy of the pharmacy’s owner, Susan Anderson. “There have been significant financial consequences for them. They obviously feel pretty burned by this whole situation.”
According to DeTroy and the Bangor Daily News archives, the thefts were uncovered in April 2010 when the pharmacy owners confronted employee Doris Bourque, 59, of Topsham about missing Tussionex, which is used to treat cold and flu symptoms. DeTroy said Bourque, who first took the drug after a medical procedure, admitted to stealing a large amount of the medication over a period of between two and four years.
Bourque, who has been fired by the pharmacy, was charged earlier this month with Class C theft and faces an April 28 court appearance in Cumberland County. Drug agents allege that she stole about a bottle of Tussionex a week, according to the BDN’s archives.
DeTroy said the pharmacy first reported the thefts to the state’s Board of Pharmacy and then to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, which triggered an investigation into the pharmacy’s records.
According to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court, the pharmacy was charged with failure to maintain a complete and accurate initial inventory, failure to maintain a complete and accurate biennial inventory, and failure to notify the DEA of any theft or significant loss of medications. Pharmacies are required to report discoveries of lost medication to drug investigators within one business day, according to the complaint. Each charge carries a maximum civil penalty of $10,000.
“The pharmacy was trying to do the right thing when they found out about this,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan J. Roth on Thursday. “At the end of the day, the problem was that when we asked for record-keeping, we found that it was a little messy. The idea behind this is that the public is protected because any time agencies come in for oversight, there are records. Therefore we know that prescription drugs aren’t being leaked out of the system.”
A press release from U.S. Attorney Thomas E Delahanty II on Thursday stated that the record-keeping problems were violations of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. Roth said this case marks the first time in at least seven years that a pharmacy in Maine has faced these charges at the federal level, and that the U.S. attorney’s office has asked the federal DEA to step up its audits of pharmacies.
“We’d like to do more of these,” said Roth. “[Medical Center Pharmacy] has cooperated throughout this whole case. We’re confident they’re going to increase their commitment to making sure their records are taken care of.”
According to DeTroy, part of the problem arose when records were commingled during the pharmacy’s switch in location from Parkview Hospital, another facility in Brunswick, to the Mid Coast Hospital campus. He said Anderson has implemented record-keeping practices which go beyond the minimum required by the law. Anderson on Thursday declined to comment and referred questions to DeTroy.
“This is just a regrettable situation,” said DeTroy. “The government obviously feels strongly that they want to send a message. In retrospect, my client has learned that you want to make sure you have as many controls in place as possible.”