According to Reuters, 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. According to the DEA, 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.
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.” 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.
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.