Sulphur pharmacy linked to nursing home arrests, diverted painkillers

by Andrew Knittle Published: September 7, 2012
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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.

Little oversight

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.”

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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