A lengthy police investigation into Newfoundland and Labrador's taxpayer-supported prescription drug program has resulted in scores of charges against two pharmacists, CBC News has learned.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary launched an investigation in March 2008, after a provincial Department of Health and Community Services audit of two pharmacists aged 63 and 69 — and the St. John's pharmacy they work for — uncovered numerous irregularities.
In all, 204 charges — including forgery, fraud and dispensing drugs without a prescription — are pending against the pharmacists and the business.
Both individuals have been notified of the charges, and cannot be identified until they make appearances in provincial court later this month.
The charges were laid under the Criminal Code of Canada, as well as food and drug regulations and narcotic control regulations.
Long, complex investigation
Const. Colin McNeil said the police investigation was long and complex.
"I think if you look back to complex investigations, such as the investigation into the members of the house of assembly and the spending scandal, this investigation is ongoing now for two years, almost two and a half years, and it just speaks to the complexity of that file," McNeil said in an interview.
Most of the charges, 178 of them, fall under food and drug regulations, and involve such allegations as dispensing drugs without a prescription, failing to sign a verbal order and failing to list the quantity of a drug on a prescription.
Under the Criminal Code of Canada, 22 charges are pending, including forgery, fraud under $5,000, fraud over $5,000 and uttering forged documents.
Four charges laid under the Narcotic Control Act including dispensing a narcotic on a verbal order.
The RNC said no charges are pending against other individuals or businesses.
Don Rowe, the registrar of the Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Board, told CBC News he was not aware of allegations of defrauding the prescription drug plan.
Rowe said if the charges mean that the public could be put at risk, the board could act to suspend the licences of the pharmacists immediately. He said the board would need to see the formal charges once they are laid in late January.