PORTLAND, Maine — Northern Maine Medical Center entered into a civil settlement agreement Monday with the United States in U.S. District Court in which it will pay $125,000 to resolve allegations that it violated the federal Controlled Substances Act.
In addition to offering acute care services at its hospital at 194 East Main St., NMMC operates Forest Hill, a long-term care and skilled rehabilitation facility at 25 Bolduc Ave.
While NMMC operates as a hospital/clinic registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, it does not have a separate registration for Forest Hill.
The settlement resolves allegations that NMMC negligently failed to maintain and keep records of its destruction of Schedule II through V controlled substances at Forest Hill and at its on-site pharmacy.
Federal law requires registrants to document the amount, date and manner of destruction and disposal of controlled substances, U.S. Attorney Thomas Delahanty noted Monday in a news release regarding the settlement.
The government alleged that the only information NMMC maintained concerning the destruction of controlled substances at Forest Hill was a notation that the drug was “wasted,” that NMMC pharmacy records omitted the manner of disposal and that NMMC unlawfully distributed controlled substances at Forest Hill because it did not have a registration permitting it to distribute and dispense controlled substances there, Delahanty said.
The hospital admitted no wrongdoing in resolving the matter and contended that its actions at all times complied with the applicable legal requirements.
NMMC cooperated fully throughout the investigation, Delahanty said.
In addition to the $125,000 penalty, NMMC agreed to stop using its in-house pharmacy to supply controlled drugs to Forest Hill for 30 days and to instead use a retail pharmacy while its application for a campus designation covering both facilities is pending.
Controlled substances are strictly regulated in the United States because of their potential for abuse and the danger they pose if improperly used, Delahanty said.
He said that the Controlled Substances Act establishes a closed system of controls over the handling of controlled substances by registrants, including hospitals, pharmacies and rehabilitation facilities. Violations concerning dispensing and administering, distribution, recordkeeping and other related activities can result in civil penalties.
The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Office of Diversion Control.