Wichita-area pharmacist found guilty of illegally dispensing opioid prescription drugs

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Published: Jul. 23, 2019 at 3:48 PM CDT
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A federal jury finds a Wichita-area pharmacist guilty on charges of unlawfully dispensing opioid prescription drugs..

The jury convicts the pharmacist, Ebube Otuonye, 46, of Bel Aire, on one count each of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute prescription drugs and unlawfully distributing prescription drugs and two counts of health care fraud.

U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister says the crimes happened while Otuonye owned and operated Neighborhood Pharmacy in the 2800 block of East 21st Street in northeast Wichita.

McAllister says Otuonye filled prescriptions for patients of Dr. Steven R. Henson, found guilty in October of "unlawfully distributing prescription drugs outside the usual course of professional medical practice and without a legitimate medical purpose." A judge in March sentenced Henson to life in federal prison.

"During trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Henson’s patients had difficulty filling Henson’s prescriptions at pharmacies other than Neighborhood Pharmacy," a news release from McAllister's office says. "Otuonye’s pharmacy charged more than other pharmacies and he set up a system requiring Henson’s patients to fill three non-narcotic prescriptions when filling a narcotic prescription."

The U.S. attorney says Otuony filled prescriptions for more than 21,600 tablets of oxycodone, more than 48,600 tablets of methadone, more than 18,000 tablets of hydromorphone and more than 7,800 tablets of alprazolam.

The U.S. attorney says evidence at trial showed Henson's patients took their prescriptions to Otuonye himself because outer pharmacists at Neighborhood Pharmacy refused to fill them.

"Prosecutors argued that Otuonye failed to perform his professional responsibilities by continuing to fill prescriptions for Henson’s patients despite warning signs including: Large numbers of prescriptions for highly addictive drugs, customers paying cash, multiple patients coming in at once with Henson’s prescriptions and patients from the same family presenting identical prescriptions," the release from McAllister's office says.

McAllister says prosecutors also presented evidence that Otuonye submitted claims to Medicare and Medicaid for filling Henson's prescriptions.

In sentencing set for Oct.23, Otuonye faces the possibility of decades in federal prison and fines of more than $1 million. McAllister says the first counts against Otuonye carry a penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million. Counts three and four carry a penalty of up to 10 years and a fine up to $250,000.