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Clinton clinic to forfeit $229K in deal with feds

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) -- A medical practice based in Clinton has agreed to pay a civil forfeiture of $229,000 to the federal government after receiving and dispensing prescription drugs that did not have proper warning labels, its attorney said Thursday.

Medical Associates of Clinton was one of hundreds of clinics and hospitals that received prescription drugs from a wholesaler that did not include a mandatory "Rx-only" label, said attorney Jeffrey Lang. The drugs themselves were safe and were appropriately administered to patients, he said.

Medical Associates, which also has clinics in DeWitt, Fulton Ill., and Morrison, Ill., cooperated with a Food and Drug Administration investigation, which started a year ago, he said. The $229,000 forfeiture, reached in a "pre-trial diversion agreement" with the U.S. Attorney's Office, represents the price of the improperly labeled drugs the clinic purchased.

"The receipt of a prescription drug that doesn't have 'Rx-only' is a strict liability issue under the rules. That means that if you have something that doesn't have Rx-only on it, it's an issue with the FDA," Lang said. "Based on that, we appreciate the government's willingness to have this resolved through an informal agreement that we entered into with the U.S. Attorney's Office."

The U.S. Attorney's Office filed documents Thursday asking a judge to approve the forfeiture agreement. Federal prosecutors use "pre-trial diversion agreements" as alternatives to prosecuting certain offenders, typically before they are charged.

Lang said the clinic has taken steps to make sure similar problems do not happen again.

"I can't stress enough the fact that when the FDA called, Medical Associates jumped into high gear to cooperate with the government and has been cooperating ever since," he said. "We all want to make sure the medications are safe and properly labeled and we're glad that we've been able to do our part."