Whistleblower Lawsuit Exposes Unlawful Administration of Addictive Painkillers

When Jennifer Denk, a Wisconsin pharmacist employee of PharMerica, learned that Schedule II narcotics were being dispensed under her professional license without a valid prescription, she told her managers what was happening. PharMerica, a national provider of pharmaceutical services, management allegedly ignored her. She notified the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in May, 2009. Agents raided the company’s Pewaukee, WI facility and Denk was fired.

Whistleblower Lawsuit Exposes Unlawful Administration of Addictive Painkillers

Jennifer Buth Whistle Blower Lawsuit Taken Over by Dept. of Justice

In 2009 Denk, now Jennifer Buth, filed a whistle blower lawsuit, which was recently made public or “unsealed”, when the U.S. Department of Justice took over prosecution of the civil case. According to the complaint, PharMerica dispensed the drugs oxycodone and fentanyl in non-emergency circumstances without a physician’s prescription in violation of the Controlled Substances Act and defrauded Medicare when the company collected reimbursements for the drugs illegally dispensed.

“The complaint that we are filing today reflects the abiding commitment of the Justice Department to the qui tam process, encouraging people with information about alleged fraud and abuse to report it,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, James Santelle of Jennifer Buth’s whistle blower lawsuit.

Alleges A “Harry Potter Room” Filled With Unsigned Prescriptions

The False Claims Act complaint alleges that unsigned physician’s authorizations were used to distribute the drugs to nursing home and other long term care facility residents by non-physician staff members and pharmacists with that unsigned paperwork being subsequently boxed and stored in what the complaint alleges carried the nickname “The Harry Potter Room.”

According to Stuart Delery, a Justice Department assistant attorney general, “Pharmacies are prohibited by law from dispensing Schedule II narcotics which have the highest potential for abuse of any prescription drug, without a valid prescription from a physician.”

Of the now Department of Justice case U.S. ex rel Buth v PharMerica Corp, in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, assistant attorney general Delery added, “The Department of Justice will take action to protect the integrity of federal health care program funds and hold those who violate the law accountable.”

PharMerica Disputes Allegations and Pledges Vigorous Defense

A PharMerica spokesperson said the company will “vigorously defend itself” and “disputes the premises of the lawsuit.” PharMerica is based in Louisville, KY and provides pharmacy services for nursing homes and other long term care facilities in many states. During the period covered by the complaint, 2007 to 2009, PharMerica allegedly filled some 40 million prescriptions.

If the government’s case is successful, whistleblower Jennifer Denk, now Jennifer Bluth, will be entitled to a share of any monies recovered, typically between 10 and 30% under the rules and realities of the U.S. False Claims Act’s reward provision. According to the Department of Justice, in the past four years they have recovered more than $10 billion in False Claims Act cases involving healthcare fraud.

When the government took over Denk’s whistleblower lawsuit they consolidated it with another whistleblower lawsuit, U.S. ex rel Beeders and Martino v. PharMerica.

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