Walgreens Fined $80 Million, Largest Civil Penalty Ever Paid To Government

Cassie Boss

Walgreens, the nation's largest drugstore chain, will pay $80 million in fines to end a DEA probe into allegations it allowed millions of controlled substances to reach the black market, said USA Today.

According to US Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer, Walgreens allowed record-keeping and dispensing violations to supply the black market with controlled substances (including but not limited to oxycodone).

MsnNOW continues to report that Ferrer stated that “the company also failed to report suspicious orders, was a ‘systemic practice that resulted in tens of thousands of violations.’"

USA Todayreported that as part of the settlement, the DEA has suspended the controlled substance licenses for Walgreen’s Jupiter distribution center until the fall of 2014 along with six of its Florida pharmacies until spring of 2014.

The settlement also closes other similar investigations in New York, Colorado, and Michigan according to Ferrer.

Kermit Crawford, president of Walgreens' pharmacy, health and wellness division, said in a statement

“As the largest pharmacy chain in the U.S., we are fully committed to doing our part to prevent prescription drug abuse.

"We also will continue to advocate for solutions that involve all parties – including leaders in the community, physicians, pharmacies, distributors and regulators – to play a role in finding practical solutions that combat the abuse of controlled substances and ensure patient access to critical medications.”

USA Todaystated that Ferrer called Walgreens' failure to report suspicious orders a "systemic practice that resulted in tens of thousands of violations."

"Walgreens pharmacists blatantly ignored red flags," Miami field district Special Agent in Charge Mark Trouville said. "National pharmaceutical chains are not exempt from following the law."

USA Todayreported that:

“Six of Walgreens' Florida pharmacies ordered more than a million pills a year, the DEA said. In 2011, the average pharmacy in the U.S. ordered 73,000 oxycodone tablets a year.

“Pharmacists dispensed prescriptions from doctors even when Walgreens computer system flagged the doctors as problematic, Ferrer said.

“One pharmacy in Fort Myers went from ordering 95,800 pills in 2009 to 2.2 million pills in 2011, the DEA said.

“Another pharmacy in Hudson, an area of about 34,000 people near Clearwater, purchased 2.2 million pills in 2011, the DEA said.”

These drastic jumps in orders where only a few of the red flags that Trouville was referring to.

The distribution and abuse of prescription narcotics is being considered an epidemic, as they are frequently sold on the streets illegally.

Walgreens will have to pay the largest civil penalty, $80 million to the government for so blatantly allowing too many mistakes fall through the cracks.

[Image via Shutterstock/Triff ]