OAN Geraldyn Berry
UPDATED 5:00 PM – Tuesday, March 14, 2023
Rite Aid pharmacy chain has been included in a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department on Tuesday. The lawsuit claimed that Rite Aid “knowingly” contributed to the opioid problem.
Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta issued a statement.
“We allege that Rite Aid filled hundreds of thousands of prescriptions that did not meet legal requirements,” Guptasaid. “According to our complaint, Rite Aid’s pharmacists repeatedly filled prescriptions for controlled substances with obvious red flags, and Rite Aid intentionally deleted internal notes about suspicious prescribers. These practices opened the floodgates for millions of opioid pills and other controlled substances to flow illegally out of Rite Aid’s stores.”
In the government’s complaint, Rite Aid knowingly filled at least a few hundred thousand illegal prescriptions for controlled substances between May 2014 and June 2019 that had no valid medical need, were not for an accepted medical indication, or were not given in the course of professional practice.
Examples of these illegal prescriptions include those for “the trinity,” a risky and widely abused drug combination, prescriptions for excessive amounts of opioids such as oxycodone and fentanyl, and prescriptions written by prescribers who Rite Aid pharmacists had repeatedly identified as writing illegal prescriptions.
According to the authorities, Rite Aid pharmacists filled these prescriptions despite obvious “red flags” that should have been a strong indication that they were illegal.
The government also claimed that Rite Aid intentionally deleted internal notes about questionable prescribers that were made by Rite Aid pharmacists and instructed district managers to tell pharmacists to “be mindful of everything that is put in WR.”
Rite Aid is accused of ignoring significant evidence from numerous sources that its stores were dispensing illegal prescriptions, including from specific pharmacists, its distributor, and its own internal data. The government claims that Rite Aid broke both the CSA and the FCA when it intentionally filled illegal prescriptions for prohibited narcotics and then sought payment from federal healthcare programs.
Two Rite Aid employees who worked at pharmacies in North Carolina and West Virginia initially filed a whistleblower complaint in the Northern District of Ohio in 2019. The Justice Department later joined the case.
The action serves as a “reminder that the Justice Department will hold accountable any persons or companies, including pharmacies,” according to Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton.
“The Justice Department is using every tool at our disposal to confront the opioid epidemic that is killing Americans and shattering communities across the country,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said.
Rite Aid has declined to comment on the pending litigation.
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