(The Center Square) – Tick Klock Drug in Colfax, Washington finds themselves with their pocketbook around $20,000 lighter, and their responsibilities slightly increased after a joint investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, and the Eastern District of Washington US Attorney's Office.

"Pharmacies have a critical role to play in protecting the public and keeping our communities safe and strong. Pharmacies serve a vital gatekeeper function in keeping our residents safe and healthy, preventing the diversion of dangerous drugs, and combating addiction," said US Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref in a news release accompanying the announcement of a Memorandum of Agreement between the government and Tick Klock Drug.

With Tick Klock Drug in being the only pharmacy in Colfax, and the nearest alternatives being 17 and 25 miles away in Pullman and St. John Washington, respectively, thousands of residents in rural eastern Washington depend on pharmacies like Tick Klock Drug to facilitate their medical needs.

Owner and operator of Tick Klock Drug, Nathan Johnson, spoke to The Center Square.

"It was mostly a recordkeeping issue," said Johnson, noting that the pharmacy is a third-generation family business Johnson and his wife recently purchased from his parents, admitting that there were aspects of the recordkeeping handoff that didn't get the attention to detail they needed.

The memorandum highlighted where Tick Klock Drug went wrong, noting the various recordkeeping errors and red flags.

"These red flags included patients for whom Tick Klock Drug filled prescriptions for a potentially dangerous and medically inappropriate combination of an opioid, a benzodiazepine, and a muscle relaxant," the memorandum of agreement stated, going on to note that this particular combination of drugs is colloquially known as the "holy trinity."

"It's not an illegal combination. It's just a red flag," noted Johnson.

"Out of the thousands of patients that we help, we had three patients on that particular combination of medications," he said. "They were all valid prescriptions, we checked. None were fraudulent."

When asked what the memorandum required, other than the $20,000 fine, Johnson mentioned some training in addition to what they are already doing, as well as quarterly inventories and additional care around recordkeeping and compliance.

"We implemented all of the recordkeeping requirements within a week of the initial investigation," said Johnson.

This seemed to satisfy the DEA as well as the US Attorney's office.

"I'm grateful that Tick Klock Drug accepted responsibility and has entered into a robust agreement with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to ensure that it complies with its obligations going forward," US Attorney Waldref added in her statement before noting that the memorandum of agreement will allow Tick Klock Drug to continue to operate provided it upholds its end of the bargain.

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