DEA agent says recent indictments should be warning to drug distributors, pharmacists

'We're going to come after you'
Posted at 6:43 PM, Jul 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-26 19:27:15-04

CINCINNATI — Two top execs from a pharmaceutical wholesaler indicted this month. Two pharmacists indicted.

A federal agent tells WCPO that others passing prescription drugs and adding to the opioid crisis should take it as warning.

"We're going to come after you. If we can do it, we're going to do it," said Mauricio Jimenez, DEA assistant special agent in charge.

Jimenez said the Drug Enforcement Administration is cracking down on pharmaceuticals distributors and pharmacists it believes are breaking the law, like those accused in the Miami-Luken case. The former Springboro wholesaler, two executives and two West Virginia pharmacists were charged in a conspiracy to flood rural Appalachia with millions and millions of painkiller pills, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

"You're breaking the law, you're killing people, you're putting this out on the street, we're going to do everything we can to get you," said Jimenez.

Jimenez said these investigations can take years, but they are happening. The DEA looks at the size of companies, ratio of pills to population, how payment is accepted and more.

"When it comes to these distributors ... that are doing this to gain as much money as they can, and not caring about the public, that's a significant issue that we all must face," Jimenez said.

Speaking for pharmacists, Mimi Hart, owner of Hart Pharmacy in West Price Hill, said most take great care to avoid overfilling. She said every prescription comes with a checklist and pharmacists look for red flags before deciding to fill it.

"If it's from a doctor out of the area, if it's from a very large quantity," Hart said for example.

"I don't know a pharmacist that hasn't said, ‘No, I cannot fill this prescription,’ that hasn't called the doctor and said, ‘We're really worried about this.’ "

Today's opioid crisis makes that scrutiny even more important. But it's not always cut and dried, Hart said.

"You know it's a high dose, but it's not necessarily a high dose for this patient," Hart said.

"Everybody is trying really hard to make sure that people are getting the pain medication that they need, that they're not getting too much, that it's not diverted," Hart said.

SEE more WCPO coverage of the opioid crisis on our "Conquering Addiction" page.