CVS Health to Pay Government $450,000 to Settle Dispute

CVS Health has agreed to pay $450,000 to the federal government to settle allegations that several of its Rhode Island retail pharmacies filled forged and invalid painkiller prescriptions.

The agreement announced Monday is the culmination of a two-year investigation by U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha’s office and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Office of Diversion Control into several of the Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based CVS’s retail pharmacy locations. The DEA’s Diversion Control offices routinely review pharmacies across the country looking for violations of the Controlled Substances Act, said Jim Martin, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Providence.

CVS has denied wrongdoing. In October 2013, authorities began investigating individuals in Rhode Island who were prescribing various controlled substances without the authority to do so, such as nurse practitioners. Federal investigators said they found that some CVS locations were filling forged prescriptions with invalid prescriber DEA numbers or that the pharmacist filling the prescription knew or had reason to know the prescriptions were invalid or unauthorized and also found that CVS did not keep adequate records of prescriptions.

They also said they found that some locations filled prescriptions for the opioid painkiller hydrocodone written by psychiatric nurse practitioners who are not authorized under Rhode Island state law to write such prescriptions. Under the Controlled Substance Act, such painkillers can only be prescribed by a physician. The Department of Justice has a five-year statute of limitations for investigations into civil violations of the Controlled Substances Act. Authorities investigated the conduct beginning in March 2010.

In May, CVS Health paid $22 million to resolve an investigation of two pharmacies in central Florida targeted by federal regulators for the lax sale of powerful painkillers. It was part of a larger crackdown in Florida on illegal sales of drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone.