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PROVIDENCE — CVS Pharmacy Inc. has agreed to pay $535,000 to settle allegations that several of the company's Rhode Island stores had been filling invalid prescriptions.

The company reached the settlement with the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney's Office this week, according to a joint statement from the U.S. Attorney and the Drug Enforcement Administration's Office of Diversion Control. The DEA's New England Field Division found that CVS stores had filled 39 prescriptions for Percocet (acetaminophen and the narcotic painkiller oxycodone) despite evidence to alert the pharmacists that the prescriptions were likely forged.

“DEA registrants like CVS have a corresponding responsibility to dispense controlled substances in accordance with the Controlled Substance Act,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Boyle. “Pharmacies put patients at risk when they dispense Schedule II narcotics, which have the highest potential for abuse, without a valid and legal prescription. Today’s settlement demonstrates DEA’s commitment to work with our law enforcement and regulatory partners to ensure that these rules and regulations are followed.”

Under the Controlled Substances Act, highly addictive substances such as painkillers and opioids can only be prescribed for legitimate medical purposes by a physician. The law, however, also places a “corresponding responsibility” on the pharmacist filling the prescription to ensure that the prescription is valid and legal.

Most of the involved stores were in the Providence area, officials indicated.

While the company will pay the agreed upon civil penalty, officials said CVS has maintained its innocence. In a statement from CVS, the company says it "agreed to this settlement to avoid the delay, uncertainty and expense of litigation."

U.S. Attorney Aaron L. Weisman said, “This settlement demonstrates that the Department of Justice remains committed to using all the legal tools at its disposal to ensure that everyone in the chain of controlled substance distribution — from physicians to pharmacists — abides by the strict requirements of the law.”

— Jason Vallee

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