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Pharmacy on probation for distributing drug samples

A Spokane pharmacy has been placed on probation for five years after state investigators determined it disregarded demands from state regulators that it quit repackaging and distributing drug samples.

Northwest Health System also received a reprimand and a $10,000 fine, according to records released by the Washington State Department of Health’s Board of Pharmacy.

The company once ran a pilot program at its pharmacy that allowed it to take the sample drugs and place them into medicine bottles – a move the pharmacy envisioned would increase compliance among patients taking certain kinds of medications, particularly mental health drugs.

When the pharmacy board ordered the program stopped after eight years, Northwest Health ignored the order and directed its staff to continue the practice, according to records.

The board then filed charges.

No complaints of harm to patients were made, a health law judge noted while finding in favor of the board. Yet the judge also found the pharmacy acted selfishly because of profits earned from selling sample drugs, and wrongfully sought to prevent its professional pharmacy staff from discussing the legality of the program.

The judge’s order also states that Northwest Health cannot operate as a training site or use interns, and must permit random inspections for two years.


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