CVS Pharmacy, Inc. to Pay $1.5 Million to Settle Civil Penalty Claims for Violations of The Controlled Substances Act
CVS Pharmacy, Inc. (“CVS”) has agreed to pay $1.5 million to resolve the United States’ investigation that certain of its pharmacy stores located in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island violated the federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) by failing to timely report the loss or theft of controlled substances, including hydrocodone, an opioid that is one of the most commonly diverted controlled substances. The CSA requires pharmacies, such as CVS, to timely report the loss or theft of controlled substances so that DEA can promptly investigate.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and James J. Hunt, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Division (DEA), announced the settlement.
“The failure to promptly report the loss or theft of prescription drugs as required by law contributes to the opioid epidemic, which has caused devastating harm to individuals and our community,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “The settlement with CVS demonstrates the resolve by this Office and the DEA to use all available tools to address this crisis at every level and reduce the availability of highly addictive, dangerous drugs.”
“This year, it is estimated that more than two million Americans will suffer from opioid addiction,” stated DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Hunt. “Law enforcement, treatment professionals and educators are arming ourselves with strategies and actions to combat this growing crisis. Through regulatory actions, DEA Diversion investigators and the EDNY identified that CVS violated the Controlled Substances Act. This settlement is significant because it shows that big chain pharmacies, like CVS, are taking responsibility for violating federal law, which is a step in the right direction for curbing the opioid epidemic.”
CVS is a Rhode Island corporation with its corporate headquarters in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. CVS, directly or through its retail pharmacy subsidiaries and affiliates, operates retail pharmacies in the State of New York that dispense prescription drugs, including controlled substances, to retail consumers.
Opioid abuse has reached epidemic proportions throughout the United States. According to the United States Department of Health & Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), on average 46 Americans died every day from an overdose involving prescription opioids in 2016. In response to the overwhelming number of prescriptions, and the mounting number of overdoses and deaths, two months ago the CDC issued new guidelines recommending that doctors prescribe less addictive and less powerful pain relievers before prescribing highly addictive drugs, and that they prescribe limited amounts.
This case is the latest in a series of federal prosecutions by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York as part of the Prescription Drug Initiative. In January 2012, this Office and the DEA’s Long Island District Office Diversion Group D-11, in conjunction with the five District Attorneys in this district, the Nassau and Suffolk County Police Departments, the New York City Police Department and New York State Police, along with other key federal, state and local government partners, launched the Initiative to mount a comprehensive response to the increase in opioid abuse. To date, the Initiative has brought over 160 federal and local criminal prosecutions, including the prosecution of 22 health care professionals. The Initiative also has resulted in civil enforcement actions against a hospital, a pharmacy and a pharmacy chain, the removal of prescription authority from numerous doctors and the expansion of information sharing among enforcement agencies to better target and pursue drug traffickers.
The United States’ case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Diane C. Leonardo of the Office’s Civil Division.
Today, the Department of Justice also announced a national healthcare fraud takedown that resulted in charges against 601 individuals responsible for over $2 billion in fraud losses, which can be viewed at: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/national-health-care-fraud-takedown-results-charges-against-601-individuals-responsible-over.