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Suspect Logged Into Electronic Prescription Program as Ophthalmologist to Fraudulently Issue Opioid Scripts

In a little more than a year, woman illegally wrote 73 prescriptions and obtained more than 5K pills.

Published: April 24, 2019

IDENTITY THEFT IDENTITY THEFT Federal prosecutors allege that a former employee of Cornerstone Eye Associates in Rochester, N.Y., fraudulently issued prescriptions for Vicodin and Oxycontin under an ophthalmologist's name.

For an eye surgery center, Cornerstone Eye Associates in Rochester, N.Y., sure did write a lot of opioid prescriptions. Between January 2018 and February 2019, the surgery center sent 73 scripts to local pharmacies for more than 5,000 Vicodin and Oxycontin.

But federal prosecutors say not a single one of those painkillers went to a patient. They were all obtained by fraud by an employee of the surgery center, Shannon Lambert, the LASIK refractive surgery coordinator who is accused of using an ophthalmologist's ID to log into the center's electronic prescription program to write and submit prescriptions directly to the pharmacy — either in her name or in the names of acquaintances, mostly relatives also named Lambert, who were not Cornerstone patients.

All prescriptions were issued without the knowledge or authorization of a physician and without a legitimate medical purpose, according to a complaint filed by U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of New York based on a DEA investigation.

You're not alone if you think that 73 prescriptions for 5,048 pills — that's 14 pills per day — over 13 months sounds excessive for an eye surgery center.

"There are not that many painkiller prescriptions coming out of an eye doctor's office," says T. Hunter Newsom, MD, founder of Newsom Eye & Laser Center in Tampa, Fla., noting that photorefractive keratectomy and surface ablation are the only procedures for which he'd write a script (paper, not electronic). Even then, Dr. Newsom says it'd only be for 5 Percocet.

"We're just eye doctors," he says. "We just don't [prescribe painkillers] that much."

Yet documents submitted by drug enforcement agents show that in less than a year, Ms. Lambert was able to write for more than 5,000 pills — usually for 60 or 90 pills at a time.

Cornerstone reportedly fired Ms. Lambert in February after another office worker noticed that some prescriptions were written for non-patients. Ms. Lambert, 33, of Canandaigua, N.Y., had worked at Cornerstone for 8 years. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 4 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

"Unfortunately, it is an active investigation so we're unable to comment at this time," says a Cornerstone spokesperson. The attorney for Ms. Lambert, James A. Napier of Napier & Napier in Rochester, N.Y., declined to comment.

Mike Morsch

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