Federal authorities halted an Oak Hill pharmacy’s ability to dispense controlled substances Thursday, saying its practices of distributing buprenorphine, an opioid, posed “an imminent danger to the public health or safety” of the community.
After a Thursday morning raid, the feds placed an immediate suspension order on Oak Hill Hometown Pharmacy, blocking it from distributing controlled substances.
Mike Stuart, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, said that, between December 2016 and March 2019, the pharmacy filled approximately 2,000 prescriptions for Subutex (buprenorphine), despite “obvious red flags” for abuse and diversion.
More than half of the prescriptions, Stuart said, came from an out-of-state clinic more than 200 miles away from Oak Hill. Some customers drove as far as 600 miles to the clinic. About 96 percent of the prescriptions were paid for in cash.
Stuart and Drug Enforcement Administration Diversion Program Manager Martin Redd said they were unaware if the pharmacy had filed any suspicious-order reports with the DEA.
Stuart emphasized that the freeze against the pharmacy is not yet permanent and is a civil matter, not a criminal one. He would not comment on the potential for criminal charges of the pharmacists or doctors who wrote the prescriptions.
The pharmacy temporarily stopped filling certain prescriptions after the DEA executed an administrative inspection warrant in November 2018. However, Stuart said, the pharmacy has since resumed that activity, prompting the raid on Thursday.
Business records show the Oak Hill Hometown Pharmacy is run by Martin and Margaret Njoku.
On Aug. 1, Martin Njoku also registered “Freedom Pharmacy LLC” with the Secretary of State’s Office. The business lists only a post office box as an address. Syreeta Green, of South Carolina, is listed as a manager.
Martin and Margaret Njoku also are registered with Lester Square Pharmacy, in Sophia.
Martin Njoku could not be reached to comment. Margaret Njoku, through a pharmacist at Lester Square Pharmacy, declined to comment.
Stuart could not be reached to comment on Njoku having registered another pharmacy one week before the raid.
Subutex is used as a form of treatment for people with substance abuse disorders. However, the drug can be subverted for illicit use. The drug is similar to Suboxone, which is buprenorphine combined with naloxone (brand name Narcan).