New Jersey authorities have barred a Rumson print shop from producing blank prescription forms used by doctors after an investigation uncovered lax controls, state Attorney General John Hoffman announced Tuesday.
Nelson Press, based on East River Road, was found to have unwittingly provided Rx pads to a Middletown physician whose medical license was suspended, the state Division of Consumer Affairs said in a press release. The failure enabled the physician, who has since been arrested as the head of an alleged drug ring, to “obtain and write unauthorized prescriptions in another physician’s name for oxycodone and other potentially addictive painkillers,” the state alleged.
Here’s the full text:
NEWARK – The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has terminated a Rumson-based printing company’s authorization to act as a printer/vendor of prescription blanks. The Division found the company’s failure to follow security requirements enabled a suspended doctor to allegedly obtain and write unauthorized prescriptions in another physician’s name for oxycodone and other potentially addictive painkillers.
The suspended doctor, Kenneth Lewandowski, of Middletown, was arrested in December 2014 by detectives from the Middletown Township Police Department working with investigators from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and the Division of Consumer Affairs. Lewandowski was charged with multiple counts of conspiracy, forgery, and unlawful practice of medicine, for his alleged role in running a prescription drug ring.
An alleged co-conspirator, physician assistant Ronald J. Scott, was arrested by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office on March 10, 2015 and charged with multiple counts of unlicensed practice. No owners or employees of the printing company, Nelson Press, have been criminally charged.
The alleged scheme was detected with the help of the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program (NJPMP). Maintained by the Division of Consumer Affairs, the NJPMP collects data on prescriptions filled in New Jersey for controlled dangerous substances (CDS), including potentially addictive opiate painkillers. It helps doctors and other healthcare professionals identify and report prescription fraud.
Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said, “To a drug dealer, a prescription blank is a license to print money. The companies that make these blanks must follow important security procedures such as verifying the identity of any so-called doctor who orders them. Failure to follow these rules can expose the public to addiction, overdose, and death.”
Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said, “If not for one doctor’s use of the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program, this alleged scheme might have remained undetected, and continued to endanger the public. We urge all physicians to bring the NJPMP into their daily practice, in order to stop prescription fraud.”
Nelson Press had been authorized by the Division of Consumer Affairs to print and sell State-authorized prescription blanks to New Jersey physicians and other prescribers. An investigation by the Division’s Enforcement Bureau resulted in the following allegations:
On October 2014, Nelson Press received an order for 1,200 New Jersey prescription blanks. Lewindowski allegedly made the order – but he falsely used the name of another, licensed physician. That physician had not authorized Lewindowski to use his name, and did not know his name was being used in this way. The Division of Consumer Affairs is not revealing the doctor’s name, to protect his privacy.
At the time, Lewandowski’s medical license was suspended and he therefore was not authorized to practice medicine or order prescription blanks. The New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners had obtained the voluntary suspension of his license in April 2014, after learning he had been arrested three times and charged with driving while intoxicated, over the course of less than two months.
When allegedly misusing the licensed doctor’s name, Lewandowski falsely represented to Nelson Press that he had hired the doctor to work in Lewandowski’s practice. Lewandowski provided Nelson Press with copies of that doctor’s New Jersey medical license and Federal registration to prescribe controlled substances.
Shortly after ordering the initial set of prescription blanks, Lewandowski allegedly called Nelson Press to order 400 more prescription blanks. These blanks were ordered in the name of the same unwitting doctor, as well as in the name of Scott, the physician assistant who was Lewandowski’s alleged co-conspirator. Lewandowski represented to Nelson Press that Scott was being supervised by the physician whose name was being falsely used.
During the printing process, Nelson Press sent copies of the prescription blank proofs, falsely bearing the licensed doctor’s name, to Lewandowski and Scott for approval. When the order was ready, Nelson Press allowed Lewandowski to pick up the order at the printing company’s Rumson facility. Throughout the transaction, Nelson Press representatives knew Lewandowski only as “Ken,” failing to verify his identity even though he was picking up prescription blanks.
The licensed physician, whose name was being misused, learned about the scheme through a routine check of the NJPMP. The doctor searched the database for prescriptions written in his own name – and discovered multiple prescriptions that he had not actually written, for OxyContin and other highly addictive narcotics. The prescriptions were falsely written in the doctor’s name, for individuals who were not his patients.
During the Division’s investigation, the owner of Nelson Press acknowledged that the company failed to contact the licensed physician to confirm the orders that had been made in his name. The printing company’s owner also acknowledged the company’s failure to deliver the prescription blanks to that doctor’s address of record or to Scott, as required by law. The owner also admitted that he made no efforts to verify Lewindowski’s identity when Lewindowski picked up the prescription blanks.
Acting Director Lee found that these and other actions violated multiple New Jersey regulations governing the ordering of prescription blanks. Through a Consent Order with Nelson Press, Acting Director Lee terminated the company’s authority to act as a vendor of New Jersey prescription blanks. The company must wait at least six months before applying for new authorization to act as a prescription blank vendor. If the company should be approved after that time, it will be subject to a probationary period of no less than two and a half additional years, during which it would have to arrange and pay for independent audits of its ordering and printing processes at six-month intervals.
Separately, on March 18, 2015, following Scott’s arrest, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners entered into an Interim Consent Order with Scott, in which it temporarily suspended his license to practice as a physician assistant.
The Division of Consumer Affairs Enforcement Bureau conducted these investigations, in partnership with the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and Middletown Township Police Department. Senior Deputy Attorney General Sandra Dick and Deputy Attorney General David Puteska represented the State in the matter of Nelson Press. Francine Widrich, Matthew Wetzel and Rachel Glasgow also played instrumental roles in this matter. Deputy Attorney General Bindi Merchant represented the State in the matter of Ronald Scott.
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 NJPMP website, and the Division’s Project Medicine Drop website.