Walgreens, the largest pharmacy chain in the country, reached a settlement with federal authorities, marking an end to a DEA probe that uncovered an “unprecedented number” of dispensing and record keeping violations of the Controlled Substances Act. The oversights allowed tens of thousands of units of powerful painkillers such as oxycodone to illegally wind up in the hands of drug addicts and dealers, according to officials.
The target of the probe was a major East Coast distribution center in Jupiter, FL, and six retail pharmacies around the state. Officials say the Jupiter distribution center failed to flag suspicious orders of drugs it received from pharmacies, and the retail outlets routinely filled prescriptions that clearly were not for a legitimate medical use. The distribution center was the largest supplier of oxycodone to retail pharmacies in Florida, the DEA said.
Mark R. Trouville, chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Miami field office, called Walgreens’ actions “a clear example of inexcusable corporate conduct that existed only for greed and profit. National pharmaceutical chains are not exempt from following the law.”
In a statement, Kermit Crawford, president of pharmacy, health and wellness at Walgreens, said, “As the largest pharmacy chain in the U.S., we are fully committed to doing our part to prevent prescription drug abuse. We have worked closely with the DEA over the past several months to reach this agreement.”
Walgreens has taken steps “to ensure appropriate dispensing of controlled substances,” Crawford said. This includes measures such as enhancing its ordering and inventory systems and training its employees.
Florida’s Prescription Pill Epidemic
With the advent of the pill mill, prescription drug abuse in Florida was upgraded from problem to epidemic. These offices employed physicians who would treat patients on a cash-only basis and prescribe copious amounts of pain medication without clear medical need. Drug seeking individuals from other southern states began to travel en masse to Florida to get these prescriptions. Many of them would then sell the pills on the streets of their home states for up to forty times what they paid.
Every day, seven people die as a result of prescription drug abuse in Florida. Prescription drug related deaths now outpace deaths from automobile accidents. An ongoing crackdown in recent years — including passage of better prescription monitoring laws and numerous arrests of doctors, clinic operators and pharmacy owners — has reduced the number of illegal “pill mills” operating in the state.
Unfortunately, now that so many pill mills have been closed, Florida law enforcement has seen a significant increase in import and sales of street drugs. Also, there has been a huge spike in armed robberies of pharmacies and drug cargo heists.
There isn’t enough being done for those who have become addicted as a result of prescription drug abuse in Florida. Because these are highly addictive medications, an addicted individual doesn’t just quit when he no longer has access to the pills through a doctor’s office. When their primary source of drugs is unavailable, prescription drug abusers are forced to go elsewhere to fuel their habit.
If you or someone you love is addicted to prescription drugs, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.