Government Sues Pennsylvania Pharmacy and Owner for Dispensing Opioids Without Prescriptions

On Thursday, the United States sued McElroy Pharmacy and owner-pharmacist Jeffrey Eshelman for unlawfully dispensing controlled substances and healthcare fraud. The Eastern District of Pennsylvania civil complaint charges the defendants with three counts of federal fraud-related violations, and alleges that Eshelman’s misconduct was especially egregious because he provided opioids to people with opioid use disorders, thereby causing serious public harm.

The complaint explains that the retail pharmacy located in the small community of Lititz, Pennsylvania was “an outlier in its geographic area as the top purchaser of high-risk Schedule II opioid hydrocodone.” When federal agencies investigated, they found that lead pharmacist and co-owner Eshelman, “engaged in a years-long practice of dispensing countless pills of high-risk hydrocodone to individuals in the Lititz area, knowing that the individuals had a substance use disorder, without requiring a prescription.” Investigators also determined that Eshelmen dispensed controlled substances without a prescription on at least 199 different occasions.

In addition, the plaintiff accuses Eshelman of committing healthcare fraud by billing for and being reimbursed for costlier brand name drugs, while actually dispensing lower-cost generic drugs, and failing to accurately inventory and track the pharmacy’s controlled substances. The filing also notes that last August, the pharmacist reportedly pled guilty to four ungraded state felony counts of possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver, and six related ungraded misdemeanor counts.

The federal government charges the defendants with the unlawful dispensing of controlled substances, negligent refusal to comply with controlled substances act record-keeping, and knowingly presenting and causing the presentation of false claims. For each count, the United States seeks the assessment of civil penalties which range between $5,000 and about $67,500 per violation.

The government is represented by the United States Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice.