Saturday, June 23, 2018
News Roundup

Before abortion pills dispensed, pharmacy called Welden medical practice

TAMPA — When John Andrew Welden tried to buy the abortion drug Cytotec to slip to his ex-girlfriend March 29, his forged prescription was dated April 29.

On the surface, the prescriber appeared to be Welden's fertility specialist father. Sunlake Pharmacy had seen the signature often. Still, because of the date, a pharmacist called the doctor's office to verify the order, according to recently filed court documents in a civil suit.

"Dr. (Stephen) Welden's medical practice verified the prescription, and confirmation of that verification was noted on the prescription itself by staff of Sunlake Pharmacy," attorney Mark Hartig wrote.

Welden, 28, got the drug. And authorities say he gave it to his ex-girlfriend, Remee Jo Lee, who lost an embryo of nearly seven weeks. Now Lee, 27, is suing.

The attorney brought up the pharmacy's professed due diligence over the Cytotec order in a motion that asks a Hillsborough Circuit Court judge to dismiss the lawsuit Lee filed against Hartig's client, Thomas J. Faust, whose family operates the pharmacy.

The lawsuit names five people and several business entities associated with Sunlake, claiming pharmaceutical negligence, negligent management or supervision, battery and intentional infliction of emotional pain.

Attorney Hartig, in an interview, said he doesn't know who at Dr. Welden's office gave a go-ahead to fill the Cytotec prescription, but he expects more details to emerge as the case progresses.

He declined to name the pharmacist who filled the prescription but said he doesn't represent that person.

The prescription, now part of court records, contains a note in tiny script about the March-April discrepancy: "Verified date with Dr. Welden," the note states.

Asked to respond, defense attorney Todd Foster, who represents the Weldens, said this:

"Dr. Welden denies that he verified the prescription."

Attorney Hartig isn't taking the note literally.

"There's no evidence that it wasn't John Welden himself that may have verified the prescription because he was the office manager," Hartig said.

Before his arrest, Welden managed the family's Lutz weight-loss clinic, next door to the Dr. Welden's fertility clinic on N Dale Mabry Highway. The doctor told detectives the son worked for stepmother Lenora Welden. State records show she is licensed as a nurse practitioner.

The son, currently on house arrest under the watch of a private security detail, is expected to be sentenced on federal criminal charges Dec. 5.

He pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tampering with a consumer product.

Attorneys on both sides have recommended a sentence of 13 years and 8 months, but U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara is not bound by that.

A hearing on Hartig's motion in the civil suit is scheduled for Dec. 11 before Hillsborough Circuit Judge Charles E. Bergmann.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Patty Ryan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3382.

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