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Fed accuse Utah pharmacy of illegally dispensing thousands of painkillers, ignoring red flags

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SALT LAKE CITY — A northern Utah pharmacy illegally dispensed thousands of painkillers despite what federal authorities say were obviously red flags, according to a civil lawsuit filed Friday.

The Drug Enforcement Administration opened an investigation into a pharmacy owned by Ridley’s Family Markets in Morgan after discovering that it filled 160 forged and fraudulent prescriptions for two of its regular customers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City said.

The government alleges that the customers’ actions were so obviously fraudulent that any reasonable pharmacist would have prevented the sales.

“Ridley’s shirked their responsibility as the last line of defense between powerful controlled substances with high potential for abuse and the people seeking them. The warning signs and red flags were many, but Ridley’s ignored them all when they chose to fill hundreds of opioid prescriptions for members of the same family under highly suspicious circumstances,” the lawsuit alleges.

Those warning signs include 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 at the same address, and prescriptions for drug combinations well-known in the medical and pharmacy community for carrying a high risk for abuse, according to the lawsuit.

The Morgan location is the second Ridley’s pharmacy to be accused of violating the Controlled Substances Act. A Ridley’s pharmacy in Casper, Wyoming, is also alleged to have filled more than 200 illegitimate prescriptions written by a now convicted pill-pushing doctor, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The government is asking a judge to impose a fine of up to $67,627 per violation.

Ridley’s operates 31 grocery stores and two stand-alone pharmacies in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and Nevada. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.