SULPHUR — A Sulphur pharmacy is accused of dispensing dozens of illegal prescriptions for narcotic painkillers and diet pills and allowing an unlicensed technician to operate with little oversight, according to an “order to show cause” filed last week by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.
The order shows that at least 72 illegal prescriptions for hydrocodone and Phentermine were filled by Larry's Pharmacy between June 2010 and January of this year.
Hydrocodone is a narcotic, opiate-based painkiller, while Phentermine is a diet pill that also is a scheduled substance.
Larry's Pharmacy is now linked to a spate of arrests of former nursing home employees in Sulphur, which were announced months ago.
The six former employees of Callaway Nursing Home are charged with diverting as many as 9,000 pills to the streets of the small city in south-central Oklahoma, where they can be worth several dollars per dose.
Most of the illegal prescriptions were for hydrocodone, court records show.
Pharmacy representatives have been ordered to appear Sept. 26 and explain why the narcotics bureau should not take action against it.
According to the order, which is signed by bureau Director Darrell Weaver, the pharmacy's manager didn't effectively monitor prescriptions coming into Larry's Pharmacy over the nearly two-year period in question.
The order focuses on the actions of Mercy Szalaj, a pharmacy technician at Larry's Pharmacy during the two years in question who told narcotics bureau agents that her job was to handle prescriptions called or faxed into the business.
Szalaj said she would have the pharmacists verify the prescriptions she recorded, the order shows, but told investigators that “the pharmacist would not review her notes from the phoned-in prescriptions nor would the pharmacist confirm the prescription with the prescribing registrant.”
“Szalaj further reported that she never called any of the prescribers to verify the unauthorized CDS prescriptions and that she assumed the prescriptions were legitimate,” Weaver wrote in the order.
According to the order, the former nursing home employees dealt almost exclusively with the unlicensed technician when calling in prescriptions, and would often call and “specifically ask to speak to Szalaj to place the order.”
Szalaj has not been charged with a crime, court records show.
Larry Hobbs, the managing pharmacist at Larry's Pharmacy, admitted the pharmacy was at least partly responsible for the illegal prescriptions being filled, the order shows.
“Hobbs admitted to being lax in maintaining the pharmacy's procedures and that Szalaj had too much responsibility with very little oversight,” Weaver wrote in the order.
The order states that a pharmacy manager is responsible “for all aspects of the operation related to the practice of pharmacy.”
Hobbs could not be reached for comment.
Fines, license action possible
Mark Woodward, a narcotics bureau spokesman, said the pharmacy could have action taken against its license or be fined up to $2,000 for each alleged violation of law.
He said a judge would decide the pharmacy's fate after the hearing later in the month.
The order shows that Larry's Pharmacy will have to answer for five alleged violations of state law, meaning it could be fined up to $10,000.
Woodward said there will be no criminal action taken during the Sept. 26 hearing.