CVS Will Pay $3.5 Million to Settle Allegations of Filling Forged Prescriptions

CVS is settling allegations that its pharmacists filled forged prescriptions for controlled substances.

CVS is settling allegations that its pharmacists filled forged prescriptions for controlled substances.

Earlier this year, CVS paid $8 million for alleged violations of the Controlled Substances Act in its Maryland pharmacies. Now, CVS has agreed to pay $3.5 million for similar allegations at 50 of its stores in Massachusetts.

The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts announced in a press release that this was one of the largest settlements ever involving federal allegations of prescription drug diversion in the state. The CVS stores in Massachusetts allegedly filled forged prescriptions, mainly for addictive painkillers, more than 500 times between 2011 and 2014.

In addition to the financial settlement, CVS has entered into a 3-year agreement with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to make sure its pharmacies work harder to detect and prevent the diversion of controlled substances.

“Pharmacies have a legal responsibility to ensure that controlled substances are dispensed only pursuant to valid prescriptions. When pharmacies ignore red flags that a prescription is fraudulent, they miss a critical opportunity to prevent prescription drugs from entering the stream of illegal opiates on the black market,” stated US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz in a press release. “…Although CVS is currently undertaking corrective steps to curb the tide of diversion, this settlement pushes CVS to go further and holds the company accountable for its past conduct.”

The investigation into these incidents started after the DEA began receiving an influx calls about forged oxycodone prescriptions in the state’s CVS stores.

The DEA found that 40 stores in Massachusetts and New Hampshire filled forged prescriptions in 403 instances. The DEA also found 120 filled forged prescriptions at 10 CVS stores in the Boston area.

The cost of the diverted medications is estimated at more than $1 million, according to the US attorney’s office.

The DEA alleged that one of the major forgers was an individual known as PR, who used a dentist’s name on 56 of 59 oxycodone prescriptions that were filled at 5 CVS stores. This dispensing occurred even though CVS banned PR in 2011. In addition, CVS’s computer system detailed warnings about PR and her previous history with trying to get forged prescriptions filled.

PR allegedly got around the ban by creating a new patient profile with her Arizona driver’s license but a different last name.

“The government alleged that CVS should have known that the new profile was really PR’s, and that the quantities and frequency of PR’s oxycodone prescriptions were excessive, especially coming from a dentist,” the attorney’s office press release stated. “Moreover, the government alleged, even if CVS had believed the prescriptions to be real, there were red flags that PR was doctor shopping, including the fact that PR presented oxycodone prescriptions from 2 different providers during a single week at 1 CVS store.”

Another customer referred to as EM also used a dentist’s name to game the system. She provided the dentist’s name on 131 prescriptions for hydrocodone at 8 CVS stores.

In a span of 6 months, EM was able to collect on 29 prescriptions at a single store. These prescriptions allotted her around 7 pills per day. At a different store, she managed to get 28 prescriptions filled for herself and 3 other individuals.

CVS allegedly filled 107 prescriptions that had the dentist’s name and Massachusetts address on it, even though the dentist had moved her practice to another state.

Another customer known as ED had 200 forged prescriptions for hydrocodone and methadone filled using the name of a physician who allegedly worked at Brigham & Women’s Hospital.

However, the physician didn’t actually work at the hospital, and the prescriptions had a quantity that wouldn’t be appropriate for an emergency medicine physician to write. In addition, the prescriptions were supposed to be for women, but ED, who is a man, presented and picked up 21 of the prescriptions.

The attorney’s office noted that pharmacists should strive to identify and resolve red flags so that forged prescriptions aren’t filled.