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updated: 10/10/2012 1:44 PM

Rhode Island pharmacy owned by Oak Brook firm suspended

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Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The state Department of Health has suspended the license of a Rhode Island pharmary owned by Oak Brook-based Millennium Pharmacy Systems Inc.,that supplies drugs to patients in long-term nursing facilities because it allegedly dispensed adulterated and misbranded drugs and medication without a valid prescription, among other violations. Health officials also say pharmacy staff tried to cover up some of the problems during an inspection.

Health Director Michael Fine on Tuesday ordered the license of Millennium Pharmacy in Smithfield suspended, saying its continued operation constitutes an immediate danger to the public. Fine also suspended the licenses of three staff members, including Millennium's pharmacist-in-charge in Smithfield.

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A spokeswoman for the Oak Brook company did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The order says an inspection on Sept. 6 discovered that pharmacy staff repackaged prescription drugs into improperly labeled containers such as plastic sandwich baggies and did not include important information on sometimes handwritten labels, including expiration dates and lot numbers. It says an inspection showed Millennium had a significant amount of expired medications in stock.

Millennium staff also accepted returns of controlled substances from nursing facilities it served, then routinely re-dispensed them to facilities in Rhode Island and other states, according to the order. They also failed to alert the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration within 24 hours of a potential loss of controlled substances, among other issues.

Health officials say that during a follow-up inspection on Oct. 1, the pharmacist-in-charge, Christopher Rizzo, conspired with pharmacy technicians Roger Norman Croteau and Angelina Chanthearun Chea to hide misbranded drugs in the pharmacy's inventory from inspectors, obstructing their ability to get samples. Their licenses were all suspended.

A phone listing could not be found for Chea. Messages left at listings for Rizzo and Croteau were not immediately returned.

A spokeswoman for the health department said she could not comment on whether anyone was hurt by the alleged misdeeds, how officials learned of the problems or say which facilities are served by Millennium.

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