The whistleblower whose lawsuit and tips prompted her former employer, pharmacy management company PharMerica, to settle earlier this month with the U.S. government for $31.5 million told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the experience compelled her to seek a new career.
“I never dreamed I’d be living in a ‘CSI’ episode,” whistleblower Jennifer Buth told the Journal Sentinel, referring to the popular TV crime series.
Ms. Buth, who holds a doctorate degree in pharmacy, worked at a Sam’s Club pharmacy in Wisconsin before she was recruited into PharMerica’s Pawaukee operation as the managing pharmacist – a position that paid her six figures and placed a dozen other employees in her charge.
PharMerica is a national pharmacy management company that manages the prescription drugs for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
In her management role, Ms. Buth found that PharMerica was dispensing OxyContin, fenatyl, and other potent Schedule II narcotics to in non-emergency circumstances, often without a prescription, putting elderly patients at risk. PharMerica then falsely billed the federal government for those illegally dispensed drugs.
She expressed her concerns about the company’s practices to her supervisors, but when she realized they had no intentions of changing the way PharMerica did business, she turned to federal regulators.
Ms. Buth filed a lawsuit against the company in 2009 under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which allows private individuals to take legal action on behalf of the U.S. government and share a percentage of any recovery made.
But despite the $4.3 million payoff she received under the PharMerica settlement, Ms. Buth told the Journal Sentinel she won’t be returning to pharmacy work.
“It’s not been what I thought it would be,” she told the paper. “I need a break from the profession. I’m too bitter.”
Ms. Buth fell under threats and stress at work until she was fired the day before the DEA raided PharMerica’s offices.
“Buth was single, had just bought [a] house and new SUV and was concerned about her license and even going to jail, despite having tried to correct practices and ultimately calling the DEA,” the Journal Sentinel reported.
She even took another pharmacist job while her case was pending and realized her boss there was also committing fraud. She was terrified of blowing the whistle again, but eventually did and her manager was ultimately prosecuted.
Ms. Buth told the Journal Sentinel that she plans to go back to school and become an elementary school teacher because then she “could make a difference and not have to fight against fraud all the time.”