Walgreens painkiller case settled for $80 million


U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials say the chain allowed for tens of thousands of units of prescription drugs such as oxycodone to wind up in the hands of dealers and addicts.

Walgreens committed numerous record-keeping and dispensing violations of the Controlled Substances Act at a major East Coast distribution center in Jupiter, Fla., and at six retail pharmacies around the state. The drugs also included hydrocodone and Xanax, a DEA official said.

Investigators uncovered six retail outlets that would routinely fill prescriptions that were not for medical use.

Walgreens is the nation's largest pharmacy chain, with more than 8,000 stores and sales of $72 billion last year.

"As the largest pharmacy chain in the U.S., we are fully committed to doing our part to prevent prescription drug abuse," said Kermit Crawford, president of pharmacy, health and wellness at Walgreens. "We have worked closely with the DEA over the past several months to reach this agreement."

A surge of oxycodone prescriptions at Walgreens became apparent after 2009, according to the DEA. To take one example, the store in Hudson went from 388,100 oxycodone units purchased in 2009 to more than 913,000 in 2010, then to 2.1 million in 2011. Trouville said the national average for pharmacy purchases of oxycodone is about 73,000 units.

In addition to the penalty and the temporary ban on dispensing certain drugs at the selected Florida locations, the settlement requires that Walgreens create a new department to ensure regulatory compliance, a new training program for employees and that it end compensation for pharmacists based on prescriptions filled.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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