CVS Pharmacy will pay $1.5 million to settle claims that some Long Island stores failed to report in a timely fashion the loss or theft of opioids, including hydrocodone, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
Prosecutors said CVS branches in Nassau and Suffolk counties violated the federal Controlled Substances Act in failing to report missing narcotics to the Drug Enforcement Agency within 24 hours. Some CVS stores waited up to six months to report missing pills, they said.
“The failure to promptly report the loss or theft of prescription drugs as required by law contributes to the opioid epidemic, which has caused devastating harm to individuals and our community,” said Richard Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District.
DEA Special Agent-in-Charge James Hunt said the settlement is “significant because it shows that big chain pharmacies, like CVS, are taking responsibility for violating federal law, which is a step in the right direction for curbing the opioid epidemic.”
The case, which began in 2013, involved 14 Long Island CVS locations, said DEA spokeswoman Erin McKenzie-Mulvey.
A Huntington Station CVS store had the largest loss of drugs, authorities said, with 19,000 hydrocodone tablets missing, authorities said.
In a statement, CVS said the “allegations of record keeping violations” are several years old. “The company agreed to this settlement to avoid the expense and uncertainty of litigation,” it said. “CVS Pharmacy is committed to the highest standards of ethics and business practices, including complying with all federal and state laws governing the dispensing of prescriptions and related record keeping and reporting requirements.”
At least 555 people died of opioid drug overdoses on Long Island in 2016, part of a national epidemic that caused more than 60,000 fatalities, according to law enforcement and medical examiner officials.
In 2012, the Eastern District and the DEA launched an initiative to address the region’s opioid epidemic. To date, the initiative has led to more than 160 federal and local criminal prosecutions, including 22 health care professionals.