Several Colorado Health Professionals Charged With Illegally Dispensing Opioids

(AP Photo)
Opioid tablets.
Photo: Opioid Tablets (AP)
Opioid tablets.

Colorado's outgoing U.S. Attorney, Bob Troyer, announced three separate criminal opioid prosecutions Thursday.

A Denver doctor, a Lyons pharmacist and two South Denver pharmacists have been charged with dispensing opioids outside of usual professional practice.

The doctor, Andrew M. Ho, has been charged with 21 counts of distributing controlled substances between September 2014 and November 2015. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Ho illegally prescribed several controlled substances, including Oxycodone.

Pharmacist Mary Aronson owns and operates of Vrain Pharmacy in Lyons. She was charged in a federal indictment with illegal distribution of oxycodone, amphetamine, and lorazepam between Decemeber 2017 and Februrary 2018.

Ho and Aronson could each face up to twenty years in prison and fines of up to one million dollars.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the two South Denver pharmacists plead guilty to dispensing controlled substances. Stanley Callas and Scott Eskanos co-owned Crown Point Pharmacy in Parker and Sky Ridge Pharmacy in Lone Tree. Both dispensed morphine, meperidine, and lorazepam to co-defendant Dianna Smithling.

Troyer and his counterparts in Pennsylvania also reached a large civil settlement with Passavant Memorial Homes and its subsidiaries. The company agreed to pay more than $1.8 million to resolve allegations of dispensing controlled substances without valid prescriptions.

In some cases, staff filed claims for the drugs to Medicare and Medicaid.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Passavant has changed its policies to stop this practice.

The investigation into Passavant was launched in 2015 after Passavant voluntarily disclosed to that the company had dispensed controlled substances to patients without a prescription between 2009 and 2014. Passavant claimed it was for a legitimate medical purpose

The civil case against the company was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The office’s Opioid Initiative Working Group brings both criminal and civil actions against unlawful practices by analyzing data to identify offending doctors and pharmacies.

“Reducing opioid deaths is a genuine battle,” Troyer said in a news release. “Too many in our country battle daily with addiction, and our hearts and our work are for them. Then there are others in our society who prey on the addicted. We are taking this fight to them.”

The DEA will oversee a National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Oct. 27, 2018. There will be thousands of collection sites across the country where residents can safely dispose of prescription medications.

SATURDAY, WHAT A DAY! 10/27 is #TakeBackDay: That’s the day to take Rx drugs and dispose of them properly, securely, safely