A pharmacist has been sentenced to four years’ prison after pleading guilty to a conspiracy that involved healthcare fraud and illegal distribution of opioids
Ray Ashley Dixon, a pharmacist who owned and operated a pharmacy in Georgia, United States, has been sentenced to four years in federal prison after pleading guilty to a conspiracy that involved healthcare fraud and illegal distribution of opioids.
According to court documents and information presented during Friday’s sentencing hearing, Mr Dixon distributed opioids – including oxycodone and hydrocodone – to several individuals without a legitimate prescription issued by a doctor.
Upon inspection by agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Mr Dixon’s pharmacy could not account for more than 10,000 units of controlled substances.
Mr Dixon, through his pharmacy, was also a major source of opioids for patients of convicted physician Dr Frank Bynes, Jr., distributing in excess of 110,000 units of opioids and other controlled substances during a 15-month period.
Dr Bynes, also from Georgia, was found guilty by a US federal jury on 13 counts of unlawful dispensation of controlled substances and three counts of healthcare fraud in October 2019. In February, he was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.
According to US Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, Bobby Christine, Mr Dixon also created fake prescriptions for expensive medications and then billed insurance programs for them, despite the fact that the medications were neither prescribed nor dispensed.
Based on information presented during the sentencing hearing, Mr Dixon’s fraud amounted to more than US$1.8 million (AU$2.6 million) over four years, which he will be required to pay back as restitution.
The pharmacist also agreed to forfeit cash, vehicles, and investment accounts as part of his agreement with the government.
“Pharmacists are entrusted with significant responsibility in our healthcare system,” said US Attorney Christine.
“Illegally distributing drugs is a major violation of that trust, and pharmacists who do so will find, like Ray Dixon, that there is no tolerance for such crimes in the Southern District.”
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr added: “A primary means of addressing opioid-addiction in this country is to ensure that only those with legitimate medical needs receive such drugs in the first place.
“Mr Dixon ignored his important gatekeeping function and did so for his own benefit. We commend US Attorney Christine’s Office and believe that the sentence Mr Dixon received sends a strong message that this will not be tolerated.”
Following his prison term, the pharmacist will continue to be on supervised release for three years. There is no parole in the US federal system.
With growing rates of opioid use disorders and overdose deaths, the US has been battling an opioid epidemic described as a “public health crisis” by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
According to the institute, in 2017, more than 47,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose, including prescription opioids, heroin, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl.
That same year, an estimated 1.7 million people in the US suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers.