Walgreens Pays $80 Million to Settle Drug Enforcement Administration Painkiller Investigation

Friday, June 14, 2013
By Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm and Catherine T. Hollis, J.D., The Health Law Firm

It seems the firefight between Walgreens and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has come to an end. On June 11, 2013, the DEA announced Walgreens agreed to pay $80 million to end an investigation into whether it violated rules on the distribution of prescription painkillers in Florida and throughout the country. According to the DEA, this is the largest settlement in its history.

To read the press release from the DEA, click here.

DEA Probe Focused on Six Walgreens Pharmacies and a Distribution Center in Florida.

During the investigation, DEA agents were looking into allegations that Walgreens officials allowed prescription painkillers to be diverted to illegal uses, according to Bloomberg. In September 2012, the DEA blocked the Walgreens distribution center in Jupiter, Florida, from shipping oxycodone and other controlled drugs to its pharmacies in Florida and the East Coast. (Click here to read that blog.) In February 2013, six Walgreens pharmacies around Florida were targeted for
dispensing practices by the DEA. (Click here to read a previous blog.)

The DEA investigations were part of the crackdown on pharmacies and drug distributors for high sales of oxycodone in Florida, according to Bloomberg. These investigations were sparked because Florida became a top destination for drug addicts and dealers.

To read the Bloomberg article, click here.

Terms of the Agreements.

According to the DEA, on top of the $80 million settlement, the Jupiter distribution center and the six stores are banned from dispensing Schedule II through Schedule V drugs until 2014. Walgreens also agreed to create a Department of Pharmaceutical Integrity to ensure regulatory compliance and prevent the diversion of controlled substances. Walgreens is also enhancing its training and compliance programs.

Click here to read a statement from Walgreens on the settlement

This settlement also ends the DEA’s investigations into Walgreens prescribing practices in Colorado, Michigan and New York.

Use of Meaningless Numbers for Shock and Awe.

It is hard to see why the public or our elected representatives are shocked by the meaningless numbers and statistics used in connection with these investigations. The fact that Walgreens, the biggest pharmacy retailer in Florida and the largest U.S. drugstore chain, might distribute more than a million oxycodone pills in a year is a meaningless statistic by itself. If a doctor prescribes a pain management patient a prescription for three (3) pills a day, that is approximately 90 pills per month or 1,080 pills per year. If Walgreens has only 1,000 patients with such a prescription in a year throughout the entire state of Florida, that is in excess of one million (1,000,000) pills per year. We’d guess that many single Walgreens retail stores have more than 1,000 customers per day, much less all Walgreens stores throughout Florida.

The point is that any such statistics are meaningless when taken out of context and only serve to shock those who don’t stop and think about it.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.
The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm's attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


What do you think of this settlement between the DEA and Walgreens? Is it fair? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.


Feeley, Jef and Nesmith, Susannah. “Walgreen Pays $80 Million to Settle DEA Painkiller Probe.” Bloombger News. (June 11, 2013). From: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-14/walgreen-florida-facility-barred-from-shipping-oxycodone.html

DEA. “Walgreens Agrees to Pay a Record Settlement of $80 Million for Civil Penalties Under the Controlled Substance Act.” DEA. (June 11, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/dea/divisions/mia/2013/mia061113.shtml

Pavuk, Amy. “Walgreens Agrees to Record-Breaking $80M Fine to Settle Florida Oxycodone Probe.” Orlando Sentinel. (June 11, 2013). From: http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-06-11/news/os-walgreens-dea-oxycodone-fine-20130611_1_kermit-crawford-walgreens-pharmacies

Walgreens. “Walgreens Issues Statement Concerning DEA Agreement.” Walgreens. (June 11, 2013). From: http://news.walgreens.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=5753

About the Authors: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

Catherine T. Hollis is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

Tag Words: pharmacy, pharmacist, pharmacy investigation, defense attorney, defense lawyer, Florida defense attorney, Florida defense lawyer, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), administrative law attorney, administrative law, investigation, administrative hearings, controlled substance licenses, revoked license, registration, DEA raid, prescription drug trafficking, emergency suspension order (ESO), immediate suspension order (ISO), DEA defense attorney, DEA defense lawyer, settlement, Walgreens, CVS, The Health Law Firm

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