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YOUNGSTOWN Pharmacist gets two years' probation



Published: Fri, May 18, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Canfield man is fighting a two-year suspension of his druggist's license.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- An East Side pharmacist will serve two years' probation for illegally selling prescription medicine to drugstore customers.

Richard Petrilla, 57, of Chatsworth Lane, Canfield, was sentenced Thursday by Judge Jack Durkin of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Judge Durkin also ordered Petrilla to pay the $38,000 cost of prosecution.

Petrilla pleaded no contest in August 2000 to five counts each of illegal processing of drug documents and distributing dangerous drugs. The judge found him guilty, but sentencing was delayed until after a background check.

The two-year probation follows a two-year suspension of Petrilla's pharmacy license last month by the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy, which he is appealing.

Petrilla is owner of Dick's McGuffey Pharmacy on North Garland Avenue, said Robert Duffrin, an assistant county prosecutor. The store remains open during the suspension and appeal. Substitute pharmacists have been hired since Petrilla is not allowed to work there, said defense attorney Gregg A. Rossi.

No prescriptions: Duffrin said Petrilla sold drugs to customers without prescriptions from doctors. It was usually done for patients with long-term medical problems such as heart ailments.

"The doctor wasn't prescribing medicine, he was," Duffrin said of Petrilla.

After he sold the medicine, Petrilla billed the customers' insurance companies for reimbursement as if he'd filled a legitimate prescription, Duffrin said. In some cases, he falsified information to make it appear that a doctor had ordered the medicine.

"There are very tight regulations when you're dealing with pharmacists," Duffrin said.

Insurance battles: Rossi said Petrilla got into a "war" with the insurance company over mail-order prescriptions. He said Petrilla was supposed to fill only the first prescription, with refills to be done by mail order, which carries a lower cost for the insurance companies.

Instead, he processed the initial prescription and each of the refills and separate prescriptions and billed the insurance company for each of them. That way he got his money for the medicine, Rossi said.

He did it because as an independent druggist he could not compete with the mail-order companies' lower costs.

"It was really done to keep him in business and also to help his customers," most of whom were elderly and could not figure out the mail-order process, Rossi said. "What he did was a technical violation of the law."

bjackson@vindy.com




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