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Saskatoon pharmacy disciplined for overbilling Indigenous Services Canada

After the pharmacy manager blew the whistle, SRx Pharma Inc. – which operates a pharmacy in Saskatoon – was found guilty of misconduct.

In 2017 and 2018, the pharmacy overcharged the Uninsured Health Benefits Program (NIHB) thousands of dollars for hepatitis C drugs, according to disciplinary documents from the Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy Professionals.

The NIHB is an Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) program that covers a range of things, including prescription medications, for eligible Aborigines and Inuit.

The pharmacy has been accused of not only billing the drugs higher than paid, but also causing the drug wholesaler to adjust the bills to match the inflated bills.

Hearing records say the Pharmacy Director was pushed to do these things by SRx President Adesh Vora. The manager eventually resigned and complained to the college.

According to the disciplinary order, Vora informed the pharmacy manager that other pharmacies of his had done the same. Vora had received a verbal warning from the Ontario College of Pharmacists, including for improper billing practices to the NIHB for hepatitis C drugs.

When ISC got wind of the overcharge, it ordered a forensic investigation. It was found that the NIHB may have overcharged between $73,795.40 and $265,458.28.

ISC recovered the money from the pharmacy and the $73,795.40 was paid.

The decision, authored by Michael Davis, chair of the Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy Professionals discipline, said the committee was “acutely aware” of the context of the misconduct.

“SRx leveraged a government initiative to improve access to health services for First Nations and Inuit peoples who have faced injustice and discrimination in Canada and continue to face significant social and economic inequalities, including in relation to health services,” read the decision.

“The Disciplinary Committee believes that an appropriate sanction in the circumstances should reflect the nature of SRx’s egregious and unethical misconduct and strongly condemns any similar misconduct.”

Vora and SRx, through their attorney, admitted the substance of the allegations and submitted a joint motion for punishment, which was accepted by the committee: a reprimand, a $30,000 fine and payment of the costs of the investigation and hearing that totaled another $25,875.

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