Court orders Wilmington pharmacy to pay $1 million-plus fine, stop dispensing controlled substances

Court orders Wilmington pharmacy to pay $1 million-plus fine, stop dispensing controlled substances

RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - A federal court has ordered a Wilmington pharmacy to cease dispensing controlled substances and pay a $1.05 million fine.

Federal prosecutors filed a complaint on Oct. 30 against John D. Waggett, the owner of Seashore Drugs, and Billy W. King II, the store’s pharmacist-in-charge. Prosecutors accused the pharmacy of repeatedly ignoring numerous “red flags” as it sold millions of highly-addictive painkillers during the height of the opioid epidemic in the Cape Fear region.

The consent order from a federal court in the Eastern District:

  • Permanently prohibits Waggett from dispensing opioids or other controlled substances;
  • Prohibits King from dispensing Schedule II controlled substances, including most opioids, for 180 days and then requires King to submit to further DEA monitoring for 3 years; and
  • Permanently prohibits Waggett and King from serving as a manager, owner, operator, or pharmacist-in-charge of any entity, including a pharmacy that administers, dispenses, or distributes controlled substances.

Prosecutors said Seashore Drugs developed a reputation in the Wilmington pharmacy community as a place that “filled the prescriptions other pharmacies refused.” Specifically, prosecutors said King would fill prescriptions other Seashore pharmacists, who were no longer on shift, refused to fill.

These prescriptions included oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, along with drugs like Valium, Xanax, and carisoprodol, that, when taken with opioids, heighten their potential for abuse and adverse events, prosecutors stated in the complaint.

From 2006 to 2012, Seashore Drugs sold a staggering 5.4 million pills and had one of the highest dispense rate of oxycodone and hydrocodone of any pharmacy in the Cape Fear region during that time frame, according to data from the Drug Enforcement Agency.

During that time, the complaint alleged Seashore filled hundreds of prescriptions for well-known drug cocktails written by a prescriber who ultimately had his prescribing privileges suspended by the North Carolina Medical Board. Some customers who filled their opioid prescriptions at Seashore Drugs died from overdoses within days of receiving the pills.

According to the complaint, the defendants turned a blind eye to actions that violated the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

“Opioid addiction and abuse have devastated communities across our nation, and eastern North Carolina is no exception,” said Robert J. Higdon, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. “As the last line of defense between these dangerously addictive substances and our communities, pharmacists and pharmacies play a critical role in stemming the tide of the opioid epidemic.

“Seashore, Waggett, and King ignored that responsibility and, instead, made matters worse. Today’s order demonstrates our office’s continued, unwavering commitment to hold responsible all who had a role to play in this crisis — from distributors, to prescribers, to the pharmacies who ultimately put the pills in patients’ hands.”

Nirav Patel, the new owner of Seashore Drugs, issued the following statement regarding today’s announcement:

" We went through change of ownership on 10/13/2020 and were issued all new licenses from the State (NC board of pharmacy) and federal (DEA) authorities with a condition that the Previous owner and Pharmacist in charge will not be part of the new ownership, so the community and patients don’t suffer access to healthcare during this pandemic. None of the individuals listed in Case are part of our new operation. We want to continue serving patients and customers of Seashore Discount Drugs and have taken stringent steps to prevent any diversion of pharmaceuticals’'.

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