TAMPA, Fla. – A federal court in Florida issued a temporary restraining order enjoining a Tampa pharmacy and two of its employees from dispensing opioids and other controlled substances, the Department of Justice announced Friday.
In a civil complaint unsealed in the Middle District of Florida, the United States alleges that WeCare Pharmacy, its pharmacist owner Qingping Zhang, and pharmacy technician Li Yang, and another related corporate entity, L&Y Holdings LLC, repeatedly dispensed opioids in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.
The complaint alleges that over a period of several years, the defendants dispensed highly addictive and highly abused prescription opioids while ignoring “red flags” — that is, obvious indications of drug diversion and drug-seeking behavior. U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven granted the government’s request for a temporary restraining order, which was filed along with the complaint.
“Pharmacists have an important role in ensuring that prescriptions for controlled substances are legitimate,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice will work with its partners to enforce the law where evidence shows pharmacists abdicated their responsibilities when dispensing these powerful drugs.”
“Medical professionals, including pharmacists, must utilize the best methods of efficacy and accountability when dispensing and distributing dangerous medications,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez of the Middle District of Florida. “Failure to comply with our federal laws and standards places the public at great risk and cannot be tolerated. We intend to work with our law enforcement partners to hold responsible parties accountable for their actions and keep our citizens safe.”
“Pharmacies and their pharmacists have the responsibility to flag suspicious prescriptions written by doctors for highly sought after opioid medications, in order to prevent them from being dispensed,” said DEA’s Miami Field Division Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis. “When they fail to carry out this important responsibility, the dispensing of opioid medication becomes a real threat to the health of legitimate patients, and also gives pill seekers a steady supply to either fuel their addiction or illegally distribute them in our communities.”
The complaint alleges that the defendants failed to take steps required to resolve red flags and ensure the legitimacy of prescriptions before filling them. According to court documents, the prescriptions dispensed by the defendants often involved highly abused opioid painkillers such as oxycodone and hydromorphone, almost always in the highest-strength formulations generally available.
The complaint alleges that the defendants repeatedly filled prescriptions written by a particular doctor without examining the red flags those prescriptions presented. The complaint seeks civil penalties as well as a permanent injunction against the defendants.