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Walgreens reaches $80 million settlement over painkillers

DEA fine is largest of its kind

The nation’s largest pharmacy retailer has reached a record-breaking settlement with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Yesterday, the DEA announced that Walgreen Co. has agreed to pay $80 million in civil penalties to resolve the agency’s allegations that it violated federal prescription painkiller distribution rules under the Controlled Substances Act. The fine is the largest ever of its kind.

According to the DEA, Walgreens committed an “unprecedented” number of record-keeping and dispensing violations by allowing highly addictive controlled substances, such as oxycodone, to be distributed to abusers and illegally resold. Walgreens admitted that it failed to uphold its obligations as a DEA registrant, which requires it to flag suspicious prescription painkiller sales.

“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.”

As part of the agreement, six Florida Walgreens and a Florida distribution center are banned from dispensing various controlled substances for two years. The DEA considers Florida the epicenter of illegal prescription drug sales.

Walgreens also agreed to enhance training and compliance programs and set up a special internal department to prevent future similar violations.

“As the largest pharmacy chain in the U.S., we are fully committed to doing our part to prevent prescription drug abuse,” Kermit Crawford, president of pharmacy, health and wellness at Walgreens, said in a statement.

Read Thomson Reuters and the Wall Street Journal for more information.

For more InsideCounsel stories about the pharmaceutical industry, read:

FDA allows continued sale of generic Opana painkiller

FDA issues warning about shortened cancer drug name

FDA considering petition to protect biologic medications’ patents

Generic-drug makers sue brand-name companies for product samples

Novartis cancer drug not innovative enough for patent, India Supreme Court rules

No wider recall for glass-tainted generic Lipitor

Pfizer settles Chantix suits for $273 million

Ashley Post

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