CVS Pharmacy Inc., the largest pharmacy chain in the U.S., is set to strengthen its policies around dispensing opioids in Massachusetts and pay $795,000 to the state in a recent settlement between the pharmacy and Attorney General Maura Healey’s office.
“To effectively combat the opioid epidemic that is claiming lives and devastating families and communities across our state, we must work together to use all tools at our disposal,” said Healey in a public statement. “Through this groundbreaking settlement, these pharmacists will be better equipped to responsibly dispense opioids.”
The assurance of discontinuance was filed in Suffolk Superior Court along with a separate settlement agreement between CVS and Healey’s office. It resolves allegations that CVS did not provide its Massachusetts pharmacists with access to the Massachusetts Online Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) before March 2013, a program that provides patient prescription history to help identify drug seeking behavior. It also resolves allegations that particular CVS pharmacies in Massachusetts did not monitor drug use patterns or exercise adequate judgement when distributing controlled substances, especially opioids.
As part of the settlement, CVS will require its Massachusetts staff to access the PMP website and review a prescription holder’s history before distributing certain drugs. CVS will also update its written policies and conduct annual training on the responsibilities of primary pharmacies. Massachusetts will use $500,000 of the pharmacy’s $795,000 payment to the state to further address opioid dependence and addiction in Massachusetts.
Healey’s Medicaid Fraud Division initially conducted an investigation into CVS after a referral from the state’s Medicaid program, MassHealth, relating to Massachusetts’ Controlled Substance Management Program (CSMP). A subsequent investigation was conducted by Healey’s Consumer Protection Division related to the PMP, in which it was found that CVS did not provide sufficient internet connectivity to its pharmacists to access the program.
The investigation also found instances where certain CVS pharmacies in Massachusetts dispensed controlled substances to MassHealth members enrolled in the CSMP in exchange for an out-of-pocket payment, which the Attorney General’s office says violates state laws and regulations. Additionally, it was discovered that some of these transactions occurred despite MassHealth’s denial of claims for the same controlled substance on the same day.
The PMP is part of Massachusetts’ larger effort to address the state’s opioid epidemic. Earlier this year, the Attorney General’s office formed the Interagency Group on Illegal Prescribing, a coalition of state and federal agencies created to investigate and prosecute prescribers, pharmacists and others who illegally prescribe or dispense pills. The office indicted a Ludlow physician and a Hyannis physician for illegally prescribing pain medication to patients with known substance abuse issues.
“This is an important first step in enforcing critical prevention measures needed to address the opioid crisis in our communities across the Commonwealth and our country,” Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, President and CEO of The Dimock Center, said in a press release issued by Healey’s office. “Prevention and education are essential pieces to ending this epidemic.”
Source: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General
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