Pharmacist pays up to avoid drug charges

HOUSTON Thomas E. Clark, of Spring, has paid the United States a $600,000 fine to resolve alleged violations of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, United States Attorney Don DeGabrielle announced today. The fine, paid Friday, March 28, 2008, is the single largest fine paid by any individual in the Southern District of Texas.

In March 2006, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) got a tip about excessive purchases by I-10 East Pharmacy, Inc. of controlled substances - specifically hydrocodone, alprazolam and oxycontin. The pharmacy and its owner and pharmacist-in-charge, Thomas E. Clark, came under the scrutiny of DEA, Diversion Control Program investigators.

In January 2007, the investigators entered I-10 East Pharmacy, conducted an inspection of controlled substance records, seized those records and conducted an accountability audit. The audit confirmed I-10 East Pharmacy and Clark's failure to keep adequate records, as required by the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, (Controlled Substances Act), revealing major overages and shortages in the accountability of controlled substances.

In addition, through interviews and the inspection of records retrieved from the pharmacy, investigators revealed Clark allegedly unlawfully dispensed controlled substances in excess of 20,000 prescriptions for a variety of hydrocodone and alprazolam products, under an invalid DEA number from Feb. 1, 2006 to Jan. 29, 2007. The Texas State Board of Pharmacy assisted in the investigation which concluded in December 2007.

Based on the DEA's investigation and findings, the case was referred to the United States Attorney's Office for civil prosecution.

Clark agreed to pay the United States $600,000 in civil money penalties pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act, without an admission of liability and without commencement of litigation. In addition, as part of the settlement, Clark agreed to a voluntary revocation of his pharmacist's license, as well as the voluntary revocation of the pharmacy license of I-10 East Pharmacy. Both revocations were accepted by the Pharmacy Board Feb. 6, 2008, and were effective immediately.

"These matters are significant to ensure the integrity of DEA oversight and to keep tight controls on controlled substances so they cannot be diverted," said United States Attorney Don DeGabrielle. "Without controls in place, there is no way to prevent diversion, thus resulting in significant harm to the public."

Zoran B. Yankovich, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Houston Field Division of the DEA added, "The Drug Enforcement Administration will continue to investigate pharmacists and pharmacies that are in violation of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. DEA will continue to seek the revocation of pharmacist's and pharmacy licenses as well as actively working with the United States Attorney's Office to hit these pharmacists where it hurts the most, in their pocket."

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