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Authorities have broken up a prescription drug “diversion” scheme operating out of Nashville that sold nearly $60 million in secondhand pills to pharmacies nationwide, pawning them off as new medicines fresh from the manufacturers.
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A Nashville nurse had her medical license suspended after using a doctor’s prescription pad to write herself 104 prescriptions for more than 110,000 pills of powerful opioids and muscle relaxers, according to newly released documents from the Tennessee Board of Nursing.

Patricia Tillis, a former nurse at the Hughston Orthopedic Clinic at TriStar Centennial, did not dispute the allegations and stipulated to them as fact in board documents. The documents say she wrote herself prescriptions for 8,764 pills of hydrocodone and 2,880 pills of Soma, a muscle relaxer, over a three year period. 

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Both drugs are known to be highly addictive and ripe for abuse, especially if mixed, and can be resold to addicts on the black market.

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Tillis wrote the prescriptions using blank, pre-signed prescriptions slips that were intended for patient medicine refills, the board documents state. The prescriptions began in 2014 and continued until they were discovered in October 2017, at which point Tillis was fired from the clinic.

As a result of the fraudulent prescriptions, Tillis’ nursing license was suspended in late August, according to board documents. Tillis can potentially regain her license if she enrolls in and completes the Tennessee Professional Assistance Program, or TnPap, which is designed to rehabilitate medical professionals who suffer from addiction.

Tillis had worked for the The Highston Clinic, previously known as Premier Orthopedics, since 2002. Clinic officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tillis' attorney Robert Kraemer said that the case was a "he said, she said" matter in which Tillis was told by a doctor she worked with that it was OK to use the pre-signed prescription pads. The doctor later "changed his story" when questioned by the health department. 

Tillis used the medication to treat long-term pain from a prior surgery and did not believe had done anything wrong, but "didn't have the money to fight this," said Kraemer. 

Tillis' suspension was revealed through a monthly announcement by the Tennessee Department of Health, which maintains public records on licenses for doctors, nurses, chiropractors, massage therapists and other health care professionals throughout the state. More than 100 disciplinary actions were included in the latest monthly report.

Follow Brett Kelman on Twitter at @brettkelman.