Lyons pharmacist given jail, $55,000 penalty for narcotics sales

DENVER — A Colorado pharmacist who pleaded guilty to illegally selling prescription painkillers has been sentenced to six months in prison and must pay $55,000 toward state programs helping crime victims and addicts.

Prosecutors say the financial penalty is the first of its kind in Colorado's federal court district and among the first nationally intended to help people with substance addictions.

According to court documents, Mary Aronson sold oxycodone and amphetamine pills to a confidential informant without a prescription at least three times in 2017 and 2018 as investigators recorded their conversation. She owned a pharmacy in Lyons.

Aronson pleaded guilty in March to illegal distribution of narcotics and was sentenced Tuesday.

Online records show Colorado regulators canceled Aronson's pharmacist license in January.

Brian McCann lives nearby and says he had no idea about what was occurring.

"It was a friendly atmosphere," he said. "But I had a prescription. That's the difference."

He says it's disappointing to hear Aronson was using her power as a pharmacist for illegal means.

"There's an opioid epidemic going on in our country, and when you hear that kind of thing where pills are being distributed without prescription, it's kind of scary," he said.

Dr. Robert Valuck is pharmacy professor at the CU Anschutz School of Pharmacy and he says situations like this are extremely rare.

"This is a tremendous concern to us as professionals," Valuck said. "Pharmacists are repeatedly -- year after year -- either the most trusted professional or among the most trusted."

He says pharmacies are required to send detailed accounts of what drugs they buy and what drugs they sell to the DEA.

"If there's a discrepancy, that can be caught," Valuck said.

However, he says smaller pharmacies don't get the same attention that large ones do.

"In larger pharmacies, sometimes there's a check where two people put eyes on something and sign off it before it goes the door if it's a controlled substance," Valuck said. "If it's a smaller pharmacy and it's only one person working in the store, there's obviously this opportunity."

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