Walgreen Agrees to Record $80M Settlement Over Distribution of Painkillers

By and | June 12, 2013

Walgreen Co., the largest U.S. drugstore chain, has agreed to pay $80 million in civil penalties to resolve allegations that it violated federal rules governing the distribution of prescription painkillers.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday said the settlement is the largest in its history.

The DEA accused Walgreen of committing an “unprecedented” number of record-keeping and dispensing violations of the Controlled Substances Act.

As a result, the DEA said, Walgreen negligently allowed controlled substances such as the narcotic oxycodone and other prescription painkillers to be distributed to abusers and sold illegally on the black market.

“National pharmaceutical chains are not exempt from following the law,” Mark Trouville, special agent in charge in the DEA’s Miami field division, said in a statement. “All DEA registrants will be held accountable when they violate the law and threaten public health and safety.”

Kermit Crawford, Walgreen president of pharmacy, health and wellness, in a statement said the company has taken and will take further steps to improve oversight and training “to ensure the appropriate dispensing of controlled substances and to improve collaboration across the industry.”

The settlement with the Deerfield, Illinois-based company also resolves a probe by U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer in Miami.

Walgreen operates more than 8,000 drug stores in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

As part of the settlement, Walgreen admitted that it failed to uphold its obligations as a DEA registrant.

Six Walgreen pharmacies in Florida and a distribution center in Jupiter, Florida were given a two-year ban from dispensing various controlled substances, the DEA said.

Walgreen also agreed to enhance training and compliance programs, and set up a Department of Pharmaceutical Integrity to help prevent similar violations.

Florida has long been considered a center of prescription drug abuse, and the DEA has dismantled dozens of sham clinics known as “pill mills” where doctors have written prescriptions for drug dealers and addicts.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the U.S. death rate from drug overdoses has more than tripled since 1990.

It said prescription painkillers, also known as opioid or narcotic pain relievers, were involved in more than 15,500 overdose deaths in the United States in 2009.

Walgreen said it previously set aside $80 million for a settlement, including $25 million in its fiscal third quarter, which ended May 31. It said it expects the accord to reduce that quarter’s earnings by 4 to 6 cents per share.

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Latest Comments

  • June 13, 2013 at 5:01 pm
    Agent says:
    Remember when Ford Motor Company got into trouble with their Explorer flipping over and many were killed and injured. Ford was blaming the Firestone tires and Firestone was b... read more
  • June 13, 2013 at 3:00 pm
    Chas Holman says:
    My good God.. you know how many people likely died as a result of that amount of 'hillbilly heroin' out on the street? The lives they helped to destroy, and the criminals they... read more
  • June 12, 2013 at 4:27 pm
    Agent says:
    Wow Walgreen's. What are you doing? My wife uses them for her various prescription needs and they always have their act together. Perhaps this is primarily a Florida proble... read more

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