Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pharmacist Arrested For Theft Of Prescription Medication In Sacramento

The number of arrests of licensed health care professionals for charges related to the abuse of prescription medications or improper conduct involving them continue to increase. This particular case involves a pharmacist taking prescription medications from his pharmacy employer. The diversion was discovered during a state audit.

On March 6, 2009, pharmacist Marvin G. Gibson was arrested for theft of prescription medication while he was employed as a pharmacist at a Sacramento County operated pharmacy.

The DEA began this investigation in June 2008 while they conducted an audit at the County of Sacramento Primary Care Center Pharmacy (Sacramento County PCCP) in Sacramento, CA where Gibson was employed as a registered pharmacist. According to the charges, between August 2007 and January 2008, Gibson stole Hydrocodone on 3 separate occasions from the Sacramento County PCCP.

According to court documents, Gibson admitted to stealing a total of approximately 60 Hydrocodone pills for his own personal use while working at the pharmacy. Hydrocodone is marketed, in its varying forms, under a number of trademarks, including Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab and Norco.

The arrest warrant charged Gibson with the following violations: (1) one felony count for unlawfully obtaining Hydrocodone by fraud, deceit, misrepresentation and subterfuge (Health and Safety Code 11173(a)); (2) one felony count of unlawful possession of Hydrocodone (Health and Safety Code 11350(a)); and (3) one misdemeanor count of knowingly and unlawfully possessing Hydrocodone without a prescription (Business and Professions Code, Section 4060).

This case is being prosecuted by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office. An arrest warrant affidavit contains only allegations against an individual and all defendants must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

For more information regarding this case, see: http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/states/newsrel/2009/sanfran030609.html

Comment: This case serves as a reminder of several important points. First, the pharmacist Gibson confessed to the offense. There are no details how that occurred but as one can see, he was still charged criminally. If you have any potential for criminal exposure, hire an experienced attorney before you are interviewed by any government official (whether an auditor or law enforcement).

Second, substance abuse addiction can have devastating consequences. If you have a substance abuse problem, seek treatment now and work on getting your life back in order. If there is criminal exposure for past conduct such as diverting prescription medications or writing false prescriptions, seek legal advice and make a plan on how to handle any investigation and engage in damage control.

Third, employers such as pharmacies and health care providers need to implement control measures so that employees who may have addiction problems will not divert medications or steal prescription pads. Those employers can face sanctions from the DEA and other regulatory agencies.

Any questions or comments should be directed to: tgreen@greenassoc.com. Tracy Green is a principal at Green and Associates  in Los Angeles, CA. They focus their practice on the representation of licensed professionals and businesses in civil, business, administrative and criminal proceedings, with a specialty in health care providers.


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