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Feds Halt 2 Tennessee Pharmacies' Opioid Dispensing for Now

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) - Two Clay County pharmacies have been ordered to stop dispensing opioids by a federal judge. The request was made by the U.S. Attorney in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.

Dale Hollow Pharmacy & Xpress Pharmacy are temporarily prohibited from filling any prescriptions for controlled substances, including opioids.

The lawsuit was filed against Oakley Pharmacy, Inc. The company operates as Dale Hollow Pharmacy and Xpress Pharmacy, two of the four pharmacies in Clay County.

The complaint alleges the pharmacies knowingly dispensed controlled substances to customers who did not have valid prescriptions.

According to the US Attorney, the pharmacies “fueled and profited” from the opioid epidemic.

Within the last 26 months, prescriptions filled at the two pharmacies have been tied to several deaths.

At least 12 customers have been treated for drug overdoses at hospitals. One woman was treated for an overdose inside the bathroom of one of the pharmacies. Clay County itself is dealing with a serious opioid crisis. Only four other counties in the U.S. dispense more opioid prescriptions per capita than Clay Co.

According to the DEA, Dale Hallow pharmacy ordered enough opioids to provide Vicodin pills every day to each man, woman and child in the county between 2015 and 2018. The filing states that in August of 2018, 50% of all drugs prescribed at Xpress pharmacy were controlled substances. That is substantially higher than the average for retail pharmacies which is 15-20%.

Of the 68,000 "community pharmacies" in the US, only three purchased more opioid doses per capita than Dale Hollow over the last 3 years.

The lawsuit states that the pharmacies’ practices are “consistent with pill mill dispensing.”

The pharmacists also allegedly failed to identify and ignore suspicious circumstances of abuse.

According to the lawsuit, one patient was receiving five times the CDC’s maximum recommended opioid dosage.

The amount should have been a red flag for the pharmacist. The prescriptions were written by different doctors, and the patient was driving long distances to the pharmacy. But the pharmacy failed to recognize the red flags and filled the prescriptions anyway.

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