NEWARK – The State Board of Pharmacy within the Division of Consumer Affairs has suspended the licenses of three pharmacists for their alleged participation in an illegal prescription drug distribution ring involving a pharmacy in Plainfield.
The multi-state investigation involving federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in New Jersey, New York and Florida, began with information developed by the Enforcement Bureau within the Division of Consumer Affairs, Acting Attorney General John Hoffman noted.
The following pharmacists agreed to the temporary suspension of their licenses following their arrests on Oct. 23:
- Daniel Podell, 87, of Clark
- Howard Hirsh, 61, of Cranbury
- Lawrence Zaslow, 59, of Cherry Hill
The suspensions are indefinite, pending further action by the Board of Pharmacy following resolution of the pending criminal charges.
“Illegal distribution and abuse of prescription drugs is a national health crisis,” said Hoffman. “This investigation clearly shows how the enablers try to work across state lines to conceal their schemes. And just as clearly, we see how multi-state, multi-agency teamwork brought these defendants to justice.”
The three pharmacists worked at the Plainfield Pharmacy, located at 603 West 4th St. in Plainfield. The pharmacy is owned by Lana Wiseberg, a Florida resident. Wiseberg surrendered the Controlled Dangerous Substances registration for the Plainfield Pharmacy and for the Santa Marina Pharmacy in Union City which she also owns.
Investigators allege that pain management clinics in Florida provided prescriptions for painkillers such as oxycodone, hydromorphone and morphine sulfate to patients who had no legitimate medical need for painkillers. The patients were instructed to mail the prescriptions to the Plainfield Pharmacy, and also pharmacies in New York State, enclosing money orders for payment.
Investigators allege that Podell, Hirsh and Zaslow filled prescriptions for hundreds of thousands of addictive painkillers knowing that the prescriptions were not for legitimate medical needs. Podell also allegedly arranged for the bulk shipment of these prescription medicines from distributors to the Plainfield Pharmacy.
Investigators in the Consumer Affairs’ Enforcement Bureau initiated the investigation following a routine inspection of the Plainfield Pharmacy, and expanded the scope of the investigation by reaching out to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for its assistance.
“Our Enforcement Bureau investigators through their excellent work helped uncover an illegal scheme that crossed state lines and posed a clear danger to the public’s health and safety. Through proactive educational outreach to the public, including the medical community, and aggressive enforcement actions such as this, the Division of Consumer Affairs is meeting this threat head on,” said Eric Kanefsky, Division Director.
Kanefsky in October filed actions seeking to strip 12 New Jersey doctors of their ability to prescribe Controlled Dangerous Substances, including highly addictive painkillers. All but one of the 12 doctors were convicted in Federal or State courts, for criminal offenses related to their illegal prescribing of controlled substances. The remaining doctor’s license was revoked by the State Board of Medical Examiners, due to a civil complaint in which the Attorney General alleged he indiscriminately prescribed CDS.
Deputy Attorney General Kim Ringler in the Professional Boards Prosecution Section within the Division of Law, represented the State in these three cases.
For more information on the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs’ initiative to halt the diversion and abuse of prescription drugs, view the Division’s Prescription Monitoring Program website at http://www.NJConsumerAffairs.