An owner of a neighborhood pharmacy in Pennsylvania has agreed to pay $4.1 million to resolve his civil liability under the Controlled Substances Act.
Mitchell Spivack, 63, operated a small pharmacy for more than 30 years in Philadelphia, and by 2016 was the largest purchaser of oxycodone among retail pharmacies in the entire state, the Department of Justice said Tuesday in a news release. He developed a “no questions asked” reputation for distributing oxycodone and other opioids, according to the DOJ.
Spivack pled guilty in June to the criminal charges of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and fraud. He was sentenced by District Court Judge Harvey Bartle III to three and a half years in prison, ordered to pay $278,566 restitution and to forfeit $116,000.
In August, federal officials filed a civil judgment against Spivack and his pharmacy and he has agreed to pay more than $4.1 million to resolve the matter, the DOJ announced.
“Pharmacies and pharmacists engage in the deepest violation of the community’s trust when they exploit their access to opioids and other controlled substances and illegally dispense the drugs for their own financial gain,” U.S. Attorney Romero said.
Spivack also ordered wholesale quantities of high-dose oxycodone despite “obvious alterations” to the prescriptions and submitted fraudulent claims to be reimbursed by Medicare for prescriptions never filled, the DOJ said. Spivack and unnamed Verree employees would submit fraudulent claims to healthcare benefit programs for prescription drugs not dispensed. They created a label in patient files that said “BBDF,” an acronym they created that meant “Bill But Don’t Fill.” From 2013 through 2019, Medicare and other insurers paid over $450,000 for these bogus claims, the DOJ said.
“It is even more disturbing when pharmacists take advantage of their position of trust by fraudulently billing Medicare and other federal health care programs. Our Office will use every resource it has to pursue and hold these individuals accountable, including criminal charges and civil penalties, as was the case here,” U.S. Attorney Romero said.
The opioid epidemic is the number one public health emergency facing Pennsylvanians according to the state attorney general.
“Mitchell Spivack filled prescriptions outside of medical standards for the highly addictive drug oxycodone, adding fuel to the fire of a crisis that kills 14 Pennsylvanians every day,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “Nothing will bring back the lives we’ve lost to this epidemic, but today’s sentence holds Spivack, and Verree pharmacy, accountable for their actions.”
A lawyer for Mitchell Spivack did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Photo: Jeffrey Hamilton, Getty Images