FIRST ON CBS7: MCH pharmacist arrested as part of huge opioid sting in Houston

Published: Aug. 29, 2019 at 11:06 AM CDT
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A Medical Center Hospital pharmacist was arrested on a U.S. Marhsal's warrant Wednesday - as part of a opioid pill mill sting in Houston that netted 41 medical providers, clinic owners and managers, pharmacists, pharmacy owners and managers as well as drug dealers and traffickers.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the ring distributed approximately 23 million oxycodone, hydrocodone and carisoprodol pills.

Jeremy Branch, 32, was arrested for his alleged participation in a scheme to distribute and dispense controlled substance without a legitimate medical purpose, according to the Department of Justice.

"It looks like a more sophisticated trafficking operations than anything we've seen in the country today," Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowsi told the media on Wednesday.

The State of Texas temporarily suspended Branch's pharmacist license in 2017, according to online documents.

The state alleged he filled more than 1,600 prescriptions totaling 127,444 pills which were mostly controlled substances. The Texas State Board of Pharmacy said the prescriptions were given by a doctor who hadn't prescribed any controlled drugs in six years.

At the time, Branch was the pharmacist-in-charge at Health Fit Pharmacy in Houston.

The recently unsealed federal indictment states Branch and others from Health Fit sold pharmaceutical drugs with high street value to people posing as patients.

It also says the pharmacy dispensed these drugs in dangerous combinations, "and knew these highly addictive and dangerous combinations... sometimes called the 'Houston Cocktail'...had no legitimate medical purpose."

An MCH spokesperson told us that Branch no longer works at the hospital.

The spokesperson also said no crimes happened while he worked here in Odessa.

On his LinkedIn page, Branch said he started working at MCH eight months ago as an overnight clinical pharmacist.