CVS Health Corp. has agreed to a $22 million settlement with the federal government over allegations that two of its retail stores located in Sanford, Florida distributed controlled substances based on prescriptions that had not been issued for legitimate medical purposes by a health care provider.
A.D. Wright, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, and A. Lee Bentley, III, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, announced the settlement. The settlement resolves all civil matters between CVS, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the state of Florida, the company revealed in a regulatory filing. CVS said the funds for the payment were accrued in previous fiscal periods, the Wall Street Journal reports.The case began in 2012, when the government alleged that CVS and its wholesale supplier Cardinal Health Inc. were aware of a high volume of the prescription painkiller oxycodone shipped to two pharmacies in Florida. In court papers, the DEA charged that CVS and Cardinal did not thoroughly investigate the sharply higher sales of the drug. The DEA revoked the controlled-substance registrations of the two Florida CVS pharmacies at the center of the investigation.
The DEA news release says this settlement caps an investigation that began as part of DEA’s crackdown on pill mills in Florida. In the news release, the DEA called Florida “the epicenter for the illegal distribution of prescription drugs.” The agency says prescription drug addicts were travelling to Florida for access to physicians who were prescribing pain medication without regard to medical need and to pharmacies that would fill the prescriptions despite warning signs that the prescriptions were illegitimate. The investigation led to DEA’s execution of administrative inspection warrants at two CVS stores in Sanford. As a result, the DEA registrations of both stores were revoked in June 2012.
According to the news release, CVS acknowledged that certain CVS retail stores dispensed contrd substances in a manner not fully consistent with their compliance obligations under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and the related regulations. CVS acknowledged that its retail pharmacies had a responsibility to dispense only those prescriptions that were issued based on legitimate medical need.
In its statement, CVS said it has enhanced its policies for filling controlled-substance prescriptions. “CVS Health . . . is dedicated to reducing prescription drug abuse and diversion while ensuring access to appropriate, effective pain medication for patients with a legitimate need,” the company said.
Under the CSA, the government can seek civil penalties for a pharmacy’s failure to fulfill its responsibility “to dispense only those prescriptions that have been issued for a legitimate medical purpose by a health care provider acting in the usual course of professional practice.” Knowingly filling an illegitimate prescription subjects a pharmacy to civil penalties under the CSA.
The DEA and United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) worked together in their effort to address the “wrongdoing that occurred during Florida’s pill mill crisis.”