New Jersey Board of Pharmacy Suspends License of Pharmacist Who Illegally Distributed Potentially Addictive Pain-Management Drugs Nationwide, in Online Scheme
NEWARK - The New Jersey State Board of Pharmacy has suspended the license of Peter J. Riccio, a Dunellen pharmacist who illegally distributed a potentially addictive, controlled-substance medication to individuals across the nation through an Internet-based scheme.
"This pharmacist chose to put profits ahead of public safety and professional integrity," Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. "He provided an addictive, dangerous, and often-abused drug to patients who had not actually been seen and evaluated by the unscrupulous doctors who allegedly wrote their prescriptions. I applaud the Board of Pharmacy for suspending his license."
Riccio admitted that, in violation of Federal and New Jersey laws, he knowingly distributed the controlled drug to patients who had not actually been seen by doctors. Out-of-state prescribers instead wrote prescriptions for patients who had filled out online questionnaires.
Riccio illegally distributed Fioricet, a pain medication that contains a potentially addictive Controlled Dangerous Substance called butalbital. When abused in combination with opiates or other psychoactive drugs, butalbital may increase their effects and cause the risk of significant side effects.
"Pharmacists are required to use their professional judgment when filling prescriptions – especially when, as in this case, the pharmacist admitted that knew doctors had written these prescriptions without actually seeing the patients," Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said. "A licensed practitioner who would engage in such irresponsible behavior has no place practicing in New Jersey – especially at a time when the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs remains one of our greatest public health threats."
Following a Federal indictment, Riccio pleaded guilty to the criminal scheme and was convicted in June 2014. Although he was sentenced to two years' probation and a $100 mandatory special assessment, the Federal sentence did not affect his license to practice pharmacy.
On February 5, 2015, following a hearing, the State Board of Pharmacy ordered the suspension of Riccio's license for a minimum of five years, beginning retroactively on the date of the June 2014 judgment of conviction. The Board will not entertain a petition for the reinstatement of his license until at least June 20, 2019. Before applying for reinstatement, Riccio must pay $45,000 in civil penalties and $14,668.50 to repay the State's investigative and legal costs.
Also prior to any application for reinstatement, Riccio will be required to demonstrate that he has unconditionally passed a Board-approved ethics course; take and pass the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination; complete the Pharmacist Assessment for Remediation Evaluation; complete the continuing education required for licensure renewal; complete a criminal history background check; provide proof of successful competition of the terms of his criminal sentence; pay all necessary fees; and appear before the Board or a committee of the Board to demonstrate his fitness to return to practice.
The Division of Consumer Affairs' Enforcement Bureau participated in this investigation, which was led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's New Jersey Division. Other agencies involved in the investigation included Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations. The United States Postal Inspection Service, the Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs, and INTERPOL. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York brought criminal charges against Riccio and other defendants.
Deputy Attorney General Bindi Merchant, assigned to the Division of Law, represented the State in this matter.
For more information on the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs' initiative to halt the diversion and abuse of prescription drugs, view the Division's
website, and the Division's
Project Medicine Drop
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an
online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.
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