TLC Drugs closed, complaint issued against pharmacist, doctor - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

TLC Drugs closed, complaint issued against pharmacist, doctor

October 4, 2006

Albany-  There is more fallout from the case of an Albany doctor charged with illegally writing pain killer prescriptions.  The pharmacy that filled many of those prescriptions is shut down. 

A pharmacist at TLC Pharmacy, formerly Davis Drugs, is accused of overfilling seven different pain killer prescriptions.  A Civil Complaint was filed Wednesday against pharmacist Thomas McSwain and Dr. George Lawrence.

Investigators arrived at TLC Drugs just before ten o'clock Wednesday morning to inventory the store and sift through financial records. They say the store is number one in Georgia and 44th in the nation for selling Dilaudid, a dangerous narcotic and now they're looking for proof that at least one pharmacist at this drug store broke the law.

Investigators say 95% of Dr. George Lawrence's patients were getting their prescriptions filled at TLC Drugs. Lawrence was the doctor busted in July for over-prescribing pain medicine.

"The DEA has been looking into this matter for years and we have finally gotten together on this and put a stop to what is pedaling illegal narcotics here on our streets," said Ken Hodges, District Attorney.

TLC Drugs is accused of purchasing 75,780 dosage units of hydromorphone or Dilaudid.  Dilaudid is a powerful pain killer.

"No other pharmacy here in Albany carries that level of prescription because it's so high, they just don't do it, there's no need for someone off the street to walk in and get 800 milligrams of Dilaudid," said Hodges.

To give you some perspective, an average pharmacy purchases only 2,881 dosage units per year.  TLC purchased 26 times that amount. The pharmacy was also buying 73,300 dosage units of methadone when the average is 9,257  and the strength of these prescriptions far exceeded what it should have been. The majority of the prescriptions TLC filled were written by Dr. George Lawrence.

"He's under current investigation because at least seven deaths have been attributed to those people he's over prescribed narcotics to," said Hodges.

The complaint will ensure Lawrence's medical license is temporarily revoked so he can no long practice medicine, and will stop the pharmacy from filling any more prescriptions.

"They couldn't go to any of the legitimate pharmacies around here because those pharmacies wouldn't fill it, they would come here to TLC and Mr. McSwain would operate as the drug dealer for the corner and they would dispense the narcotics to these addicts, people who couldn't control themselves," said Hodges. 

The District attorney's office believes McSwain was mainly responsible for filling all of the prescriptions, but they're following up to see if other pharmacists working at TLC Drugs may be involved and they could face charges as well.

When the pharmacy was raided, several customers were inside getting prescriptions filled. They were allowed to take their prescriptions and leave. Other customers who arrived later were out of luck. Martha Benton has used TLC Drugs for years and was shocked when she stopped by to make a payment.

"For people who are waiting on their disability or something and they need help, this pharmacy has always been good to help people, always," said Martha Benton, TLC Customer. 

The store is expected to reopen Thursday for regular business hours under management of an Atlanta Attorney who will hire replacement pharmacists to handle prescription needs.

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