On May 11, 2012, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported about a settlement between Omnicare and the US Department of Justice. Omnicare is a Fortune 400 company and is the single largest pharmacy for long-term care facilities in the country. It operates pharmacies that dispense medication to skilled-nursing, assisted-living and other health facilities that care for 1.4 million patients. The Company has agreed to pay $50 million to the U.S. government to settle complaints that it dispensed painkillers to nursing home and other long-term care patients across the country without proper prescriptions. This settlement is the largest civil settlement in the history of the Controlled Substances Act.
Federal law and regulations clearly prohibit long-term care pharmacies such as Omnicare from dispensing controlled substances without a valid prescription signed by a physician ordering the medication. In limited “emergency” circumstances, applicable law and regulations provide a special procedure for a prescribing practitioner to call in an oral prescription directly to the pharmacy, followed up within a week by a signed written prescription. Yet Omnicare routinely accepted facility medical chart orders, oral orders from facility staff, and other substitute documents and procedures as bases to dispense controlled substances, instead of requiring signed prescriptions or oral prescriptions directly from the prescribing physician.
Families must be vigilant regarding the care of a loved one in a long-term care facility. Do you know what medications your senior is receiving and who prescribed them? Remember: In honor of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, I encourage people to get involved and be an advocate to ensure your family member receives proper care. If you believe that this type of abuse has occurred, please do not hesitate to contact us for further information regarding pursuit of a claim against a facility (www.DrizinElderLaw.com).