ALBANY – An Albany pharmacy linked to a disgraced Clifton Park doctor has agreed to pay more than $7,000 in fines to resolve allegations it improperly filled prescriptions that had raised “red flags,” federal prosecutors said Monday.
Fallon Wellness Pharmacy admitted to dispensing ketamine to patients who were being treated by the Clifton Park doctor and another doctor. Both doctors have since lost their ability to prescribe controlled substances, officials said.
“Fallon Wellness Pharmacy has accepted responsibility for dispensing ketamine prescriptions that never should have been written or filled,” U.S. Attorney Carla Freedman said in a statement. “Whenever a pharmacy receives a suspicious prescription, it must consult the New York State’s Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Prescription Monitoring Program.”
The fine totaled $7,150, officials said.
Ketamine is a Schedule III controlled substance that causes sedative and dissociative effects, officials said. It has legitimate uses, but other “off label” uses and is abused recreationally as a “party drug,” officials said.
Beginning in 2018, Dr. Scott McMahon, of Clifton Park, and Dr. Larry Bruni, of Albany, began prescribing the drug for substance abuse patients to self-administer, officials said. Fallon then filled many of those prescriptions, officials said.
McMahon was arrested in 2019. Fallon knew of his arrest and were aware that approximately one third of McMahon’s ketamine patients promptly migrated to Bruni after McMahon’s arrest, officials said.
Those same patients suffered from a substance abuse disorder, which would have been apparent to Fallon personnel, prosecutors said, had they checked the state database. Fallon continued filling the Bruni prescriptions until December 2020, when the U.S. Attorney’s Office inquired, officials said.
Both McMahon and Bruni have since admitted to writing the prescriptions that lacked a legitimate medical purpose. Bruni agreed to pay $50,000 in his own settlement agreement. McMahon was also sentenced to 38 months in prison for unlawful drug distribution and aggravated identity theft.
Fallon later issued a statement in response:
“Fallon Wellness Pharmacy (Fallon) would never dispense an opiate narcotic to a patient being treated for substance abuse disorder, and always checks the prescription monitoring program (PMP/iStop) in the very rare instance we receive a prescription for a narcotic opiate,” the Fallon statement reads. “We have learned in this settlement process it is considered a red flag for any patient being treated for substance abuse disorder to be prescribed and dispensed ANY controlled substance. We have made corrective actions to our standard operating procedures to check the PMP/iStop for ALL patients prescribed ANY controlled substance and investigate and resolve any red flags prior to dispensing controlled substances. In the case of intranasal ketamine (a non-opiate controlled substance), most patients were using this medication for treatment resistant depression (TRD) and in some cases were suicidal. We learned in some cases, these patients were also being treated with controlled substances from other pharmacies for anxiety and attention deficit disorder (ADHD). Substance abuse disorder and treatment resistant depression are both highly prevalent in our community, and patients may suffer from both health issues… additionally, ketamine is not an opioid. We commend the DEA and DOJ for their past and ongoing efforts to deter drug diversion, and Fallon will continue to support and participate in their mission.”
Updated Nov. 24, 2021, 10:08 a.m. with statement from Fallon