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Drugs given to residents without a doctor’s order?

Published on September 13th, 2009

The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel had an article about several nursing homes in Wisconsin providing powerful prescription drugs such as Fentanyl and OxyContin to patients without a doctor’s authorization, in violation of federal rules.   Federal rules on dispensing those drugs were not followed, including rules on filing required paperwork, according to an affidavit filed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Milwaukee office.

Drugs in the Wisconsin nursing home kits came from PharMerica, a nationwide pharmaceutical services firm with offices in Pewaukee, according to the affidavit.   Acting on a tip that the law was being broken, DEA agents searched PharMerica’s Pewaukee office and six nursing homes across Wisconsin in late July, according to documents.

The nursing homes were:

Beaver Dam Care Center in Beaver Dam; Colony Oaks Care Center in Appleton; Heritage Square in Greendale; Mount Carmel Milwaukee in Greenfield; Village Gardens in Green Bay; and Woodstock Health and Rehab in Kenosha.

PharMerica specializes in providing pharmacy services in institutions such as nursing homes. It is registered with the DEA to distribute controlled substances and is responsible to ensure they are distributed with a prescription, according to the affidavit.   It had net revenue of $1.9 billion and profits of $284.6 million in 2008, according to the company’s financial statements.

The infamous Golden Living, a company that runs nursing homes nationally, owns two of the nursing homes inspected by the DEA – Heritage Square and Beaver Dam.  In May, agents in the DEA’s Milwaukee office received a call from a tipster saying PharMerica was routinely breaking federal law by improperly delivering powerful schedule II drugs.  DEA agents found paperwork to back up the tipster. On May 13, agents visited PharMerica’s Pewaukee office and discovered unsigned prescriptions for schedule II controlled substances on the pharmacy operations manager’s desk.

A police report filed by PharMerica showed that a nurse had "dropped" one of the kits, containing OxyContin pills, and lost it. OxyContin is often sold on the street to illicit drug users.

Joe Pioletti
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