DUNELLEN – The state has suspended the pharmacist license of the former owner of the Towne Pharmacy who illegally distributed a prescription painkiller to people across the nation in an Internet scheme.
Peter J. Riccio, who in February 2014 sold the North Avenue pharmacy, pleaded guilty in federal court in June 2014 to giving Fiorcet, a pain drug that contains a potentially addictive ingredient, to patients who actually had not been seen by doctors. Out-of-state prescribers instead wrote prescriptions for patients who had filled out online questionnaires.
Riccio, who also owned two Lehigh Valley pharmacies in Pennsylvania, was sentenced to two years probation and a $100 mandatory assessment.
The pharmacy, a local landmark now called Ray Pharmacy, wants to have a new beginning.
"We want to give our customers a fresh start," said Tanup Patel, the manager of Ray Pharmacy. "The history of the pharmacy doesn't have to affect customer service. Our whole goal in taking over the business is to treat the customers fairly."
Riccio still owns the approximately 2,500-square-foot space, but the store has new pharmacists, a bilingual employee to assist customers with prescriptions as well as insurance and a van for home deliveries.
"They can have the same neighborhood service with a new owner," Patel said. "We don't want to go into the past. We want to create a better future for the pharmacy."
The federal indictment against Riccio said that customers would visit a website offering prescriptions where customers would choose a drug, then answer yes-or-no questions.
The website, which Riccio did not own or operate, then would send the questionnaire to a physician — often not practicing in the state where the customer lived — who wrote a prescription, without examining or speaking to the customer, reviewing medical records and verifying the information.
The website operator then would send the prescription to Riccio, who filled it and sent it through the mail or by a carrier service to the customer, according to the federal indictment.
On Feb. 5, the state Board of Pharmacy ordered the suspension of Riccio's license for a minimum of five years, beginning retroactively on the date of the June 2014 judgment of conviction.
The state will not consider the reinstatement of Riccio's license at least until June 20, 2019. Before applying for reinstatement, Riccio must pay $45,000 in civil penalties and $14,668.50 to repay the state's investigative and legal costs.
"This pharmacist chose to put profits ahead of public safety and professional integrity," Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. "He provided an addictive, dangerous and often-abused drug to patients who had not actually been seen and evaluated by the unscrupulous doctors who allegedly wrote their prescriptions. I applaud the Board of Pharmacy for suspending his license."
"Pharmacists are required to use their professional judgment when filling prescriptions — especially when, as in this case, the pharmacist admitted that he knew doctors had written these prescriptions without actually seeing the patients," Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said. "A licensed practitioner who would engage in such irresponsible behavior has no place practicing in New Jersey — especially at a time when the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs remains one of our greatest public health threats."
Staff Writer Mike Deak: 908-243-6607; firstname.lastname@example.org
Fonte: Central Jersey