SOVAH Health will pay millions to settle claims for violations of the Controlled Substances Act

ABINGDON, Virginia (WDBJ) – A hospital system in southern Virginia has agreed to pay the United States $ 4.36 million to settle claims for violations of the Controlled Substances Act.

According to the United States Attorney’s Office for West Virginia, SOVAH Health has also agreed to be subject to four years of increased compliance and supervision, during which any failure to comply with its obligations could lead to contempt of court’s findings. These findings could lead to additional financial sanctions and injunctions.

SOVAH Health maintains a hospital with two campuses, one in Danville and the other in Martinsville. SOVAH Health was established in 2017 when the campuses of the then Danville Regional Medical Center and the Martinsville Memorial Hospital and Henry County merged.

Representatives of the US Attorney’s Office say that the allegations that SOVAH pays to settle the failure of the regional health system to prevent the diversion of opioids for painkillers. In a press release, the office said that from 2017 to 2019, a SOVAH pharmaceutical technician in Danville had diverted more than 11,000 controlled substances from List II. From January to May 2020, the office said a second employee, a nurse in Danville, forged vials with fentanyl and injectable hydromorphone – replacing them with saline and diverting the controlled substance.

In a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, officials said the United States said SOVAH Health had failed to provide effective controls and procedures to prevent diversion of controlled substances. and failed to maintain readily available records for controlled substances.

“As opioid overdose deaths skyrocket, it is crucial that healthcare companies are held accountable when they fail to effectively protect these powerful prescriptions at their facilities,” U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Cavanaugh told West Virginia County. . “The oversight provided by this resolution will ensure future compliance, including these important but potentially deadly substances, and the United States Attorney’s Office for West Virginia County will continue to vigorously pursue these cases with our federal and local partners to protect communities. of Virginia ”

“Today’s agreement sends a clear message to all registrants that it is essential to maintain effective controls to prevent diversion of controlled substances,” said Jarod Zabravia, the DEA’s special envoy to the Washington Department. “The DEA is committed to tackling the misuse of prescription drugs in Virginia and across the country and holding all DEA registrants accountable.”

“The FDA monitors the supply of drugs in the United States to ensure that patients receive drugs that are safe and effective,” said Special Agent George A. Skavdis of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigation, Metro Washington. “We will continue to protect public health by holding responsible healthcare companies that fail to protect their inventory from prescription drugs, thereby compromising the health and comfort of their patients.

“In deaths and opioid overdoses at record highs, especially in Southern Virginia, there must be zero tolerance for trusted health professionals who deal with drug diversion,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia Police Chief. . “For the safety and security of Virginia communities, our Virginia State Special Police Drug Enforcement Agents, in collaboration with our local and federal public safety partners, will continue to conduct aggressive investigations into the illicit distribution of fentanyl and others. prescription drugs.

According to the US Attorney’s Office, this agreement allows for the potential civil and criminal liability of SOVAH based on the investigation. As part of the resolution, SOVAH also undertook to make changes to maintain compliance with the Controlled Substances Act. These include, but are not limited to, the presence of cameras in all automated dosing machines for capturing the placement / removal of controlled substances; timely reporting of losses and diversion of controlled substances; taking and reporting disciplinary action taken against officials found responsible for the theft, diversion or loss of controlled substances; maintaining a mandatory random drug testing program for employees; and conducting a full physical inventory of all federally planned II-V controlled substances more frequently than required by law.

Assistant Prosecutors Justin Lugar and Randy Ramsey represented the United States on the issue. The investigation was conducted by the Food and Drug Administration – Criminal Investigation Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration – Roanoke Residential Diversion Unit and the Virginia State Police.

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