CVS Health will pay $3.5 million to settle claims that its pharmacists in Massachusetts ignored red flags and filled 500 forged prescriptions for drugs including addictive painkillers from 2011 to 2014. The settlement, one of the largest of its kind, comes amid a “devastating” opioid epidemic in the commonwealth of Massachusetts spurred in part by prescription painkillers, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said. The forged prescriptions, filled at 50 stores, had a street value of $1 million. Ortiz said in a statement:
Pharmacies have a legal responsibility to ensure that controlled substances are dispensed only pursuant to valid prescriptions. When pharmacies ignore red flags that a prescription is fraudulent, they miss a critical opportunity to prevent prescription drugs from entering the stream of illegal opiates on the black market.
Even though it took a long time, CVS has taken action to help with the problem. A spokesperson for CVS had this to say in a statement:
Since the covered time period, we have implemented enhanced policies, procedures and tools to help our pharmacists properly exercise their corresponding responsibility to determine whether a controlled substance prescription was issued for a legitimate medical purpose before filling it.
Pharmacies like CVS have to register with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and are bound by regulations that require they identify red flags that a prescription could be forged or invalid. The settlement resolves allegations that the pharmacy violated the Controlled Substances Act. As described by the U.S. Attorney’s office, some of the forged prescriptions weren’t exactly the result of sophisticated capers, and they were traced to just a few people.
The case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Giselle J. Joffre and Deana K. El-Mallawany of the office’s Civil Division. Michael J. Fergerson, Special Agent in charge, who is with the Drug Enforcement Agency, was involved in the investigation.
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