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Feds bust Utah Ridley's for illegal opioid distribution

Posted at 3:11 PM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-05 14:00:28-05

MORGAN, Utah — The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit Friday, accusing the Ridley's Family Markets chain for failing to monitor one of its Utah pharmacies that filled hundreds of illegal opioid prescriptions.

During an investigation into the Ridley's location in Morgan, the Drug Enforcement Administration found that pharmacy employees filled 160 forged and fraudulent prescriptions from two customers.

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In the complaint, it's said "the customers' actions were so obviously fraudulent that any reasonable pharmacist would have prevented the illegal diversion of dangerous opioids and other controlled substances by properly following the provisions set forth by the CSA (Controlled Substances Act)."

The lawsuit accuses Ridley's of turning a "blind eye" to red flags of drug abuse warnings and diversions, including:

  • Filling prescriptions not within the scope of the prescriber’s practice
  • Unusual levels of cash sales
  • Prescriptions for the same drugs in multiple strengths
  • Prescriptions for daily doses higher than medically necessary
  • Similar or duplicate prescriptions written for more than one family member residing at the same address
  • Prescriptions for drug combinations well-known in the medical and pharmacy community as carrying a high risk for drug abuse

The DEA says the Ridley's location in Casper, Wyoming filled more than 200 illegitimate prescriptions written by a doctor who was convicted of pill-pushing.

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According to the lawsuit, dispensing drugs in violation of the CSA carries a civil penalty of up to $67,627 per violation.

Ridley's owns 33 grocery stories and pharmacies in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and Nevada.

In a statement to FOX 13, Mark Ridley, Director of Operations, said, in part: "We have been aware of the DEA’s interest for many months now, and have fully cooperated in its investigation from the very first contact with us. We regret and are quite frankly frustrated that the government has seen fit to file this civil action suggesting that a couple of its pharmacists could have been suspicious of certain prescriptions. We vehemently disagree with the characterizations contained in the Complaint filed on December 4, 2020, and will vigorously defend against these claims with every intention of prevailing and protecting its good name."