Criminal charges filed

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A woman allegedly dispensed more than 745,000 prescriptions including opioids while impersonating a pharmacist

Criminal charges have been filed against Kim Thien Le for falsely impersonating licensed pharmacists at Walgreens pharmacies in the Santa Clara and Alameda Counties of California, US, the California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced this week.

The charges allege that from 1 November 2006 to 5 September 2017, Ms Le committed multiple felonies by using the license numbers of legitimately registered pharmacists to illegally impersonate pharmacists and dispense prescriptions to patients.

During this time, Ms Le allegedly dispensed more than 745,000 prescriptions, of which more than 100,000 contained highly regulated controlled substances, including prescription opioids such as fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and codeine.

It is further alleged that the defendant never obtained a pharmacist license, and was therefore never legally permitted to dispense medication.

Ms Le surrendered and was taken into custody on 26 July 2019.

“Californians picking up medications at their local pharmacy should never have to worry about whether pharmacies are employing licensed pharmacists to dispense prescriptions,” said Attorney General Becerra.

“The California Department of Justice is committed to protecting patients from anyone who unlawfully practices without a license.

“Today’s announcement should serve as a stern warning — we are committed to ending this reckless behaviour and will vigorously hold wrongdoers accountable.”

The complaint, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, alleges three felony counts: false personation, identity theft, and obtaining money, labour or property by false pretenses.

If found guilty, Ms Le faces potential jail time and large fines.

“It is important to note that a criminal complaint contains charges that are only allegations against a person. Every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” said the California Department of Justice in a statement.

In Australia there are now tougher new penalties for people holding themselves out to be registered health practitioners.

From 1 July amendments to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law mean that people who pretend to be registered practitioners face the possibility of a maximum term of three years imprisonment per offence.

This is the first time that criminal proceedings leading to jail time can now be launched by AHPRA.

Maximum fines have also been doubled, from $30,000 to $60,000 per offence for an individual, and from $60,000 to $120,000 per offence for a corporate entity.

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