Walgreens was accused of negligently allowing controlled substances, including Schedule II opioids, to "be diverted for abuse and illegal black market sales," according to a statement from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Officials from the DEA's Miami Field Division and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida announced the agreement. It resolves their investigation into a Florida Walgreens distribution center and six retail pharmacies, as well as open investigations in parts of Colorado, Michigan, and New York.
The statement cited the following allegations against Walgreens:
- A distribution center in Jupiter, Fla., did not comply with DEA regulations to report suspicious prescription drug orders it received from Walgreens' retail pharmacies, resulting in "at least tens of thousands of violations and allowed Walgreens' retail pharmacies to order and receive at least three times the Florida average for drugs such as oxycodone."
- The pharmacies that received the suspicious drug shipments in turn "filled customer prescriptions that they knew or should have known were not for legitimate medical use."
- The retail pharmacies did not "properly identify and mark ... hardcopy controlled substance prescriptions that were outsourced to a 'central fill' pharmacy for filing. Without Walgreens' retail pharmacies identifying these outsourced prescriptions, DEA could not accurately determine which prescriptions were filled from the retail pharmacies' own drug supplies and which prescriptions were filled by a 'central fill,'" meaning DEA could not determine the accuracy of the retail pharmacies' drug records.
Walgreens admitted that it failed to uphold its obligations as a DEA registrant regarding the conduct described, according to the statement. The settlement revokes the distribution center and the six retail pharmacies from distributing or dispensing controlled substances listed in Schedules II-V for two years, ending in 2014.
In addition to paying the $80 million civil penalty, Walgreens agreed to create a Department of Pharmaceutical Integrity and to enhance its training and compliance programs. Also, the pharmacy chain will "no longer monetarily or otherwise compensate its pharmacists based on the volume of prescriptions filled."
The settlement is the latest in efforts to crack down on the prescription drug abuse epidemic in Florida, according to the DEA. Previous investigations have resulted in charges against more than 172 people, including 51 physicians and 24 clinic/pharmacy owners.
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July 8, 2013
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