Rite Aid Pharmacy has reached a settlement with Rhode Island officials to pay a $300,000 fine and make several policy changes after accusations that several state pharmacies were filling controlled substance prescriptions in excess of statutory maximums.
In accordance with an agreement reached with the state last week, the company would be required to issue the funds to the Rhode Island Attorney General's Office, as well as implementing changes to electronic records and staff training to assure compliance with state and federal laws.
"Each player in the pharmaceutical supply chain, from manufacturers and distributors to physicians and pharmacies, has a legal and ethical obligation to comply with the Controlled Substances Act regardless of an action or directive of another player. Rite Aid had an obligation to comply with the law and instead, chose to ignore it,” said Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.
In Rhode Island, state statutes prevent pharmacies from issuing more than a 100-dose supply on any schedule III controlled substances. These include medications such as Dronabinol, Butabital-Apsirin-Caffeine and Butalbital-Acetaminophen-Caffeine, more commonly known as Fioricet.
According to court documents, a Providence-based DEA investigation into an individual who was passing fraudulent prescriptions led to an auditing of Rite Aid. The audit found the company was over-dispensing prescriptions between September 2014 and February 2017.
“Pharmacies like Rite Aid whose products include schedule III controlled substances have a duty and obligation to properly dispense and distribute these substances according to regulations,” said DEA Special Agent Brian D. Boyle said in a press release. “DEA pledges to work with our state law enforcement and regulatory partners to ensure that rules and regulations are followed.”
Kilmartin said the $300,000 will be used solely at the discretion of the Attorney General’s Office to provide assistance in the implementation of programs and services for the prevention, treatment, and recovery relating to substance use disorders and for law enforcement safety measures. Of those funds, $10,000 has already been earmarked for the purchase of equipment for state and local law enforcement agencies for officers to safely field test suspected narcotics without risk of contamination.
“Those bad actors who profit from the illegal distribution of controlled substances, regardless if it is an individual or a corporation, should be required to forfeit monies that can then be put toward funding programs to help those who suffer with substance use,” Kilmartin said.
— Jason Vallee