Rite Aid has agreed to pay a $300,000 penalty for filling prescriptions at Rhode Island pharmacies of Schedule III Controlled Substances in excess of statutory maximums announced Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Boyle.
According to a settlement agreement entered recently between Rite Aid and the Attorney General, between September 2014 and February 2017, Rite Aid stores in Rhode Island dispensed Schedule III controlled substances, such as Dronabinol, Butabital-Apsirin-Caffeine, and Butalbital-Acetaminophen-Caffeine (commercially known as Fioricet) in excess of 100 dosage units, the maximum dosage units allowed to be dispensed at one time, in violation of the Rhode Island Controlled Substance Act.
According to the settlement, Rite Aid dispensed the controlled substances pursuant to the prescriptions in the quantities specified by the prescribing physicians which were in excess of one hundred dosages.
"Each player in the pharmaceutical supply chain – from manufacturers and distributors to physicians and pharmacies – has a legal and ethical obligation to comply with the Controlled Substances Act regardless of an action or directive of another player. Rite Aid had an obligation to comply with the law and instead, chose to ignore it," said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. "I commend the DEA for leading this investigation and working with our office and the Rhode Island State Police to ensure Rite Aid stopped the criminal prescription-filling practice and employ remedial steps to ensure compliance going forward."
"Pharmacies like Rite Aid whose products include Schedule III controlled substances have a duty and obligation to properly dispense and distribute these substances according to regulations," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Boyle. "DEA pledges to work with our state law enforcement and regulatory partners to ensure that rules and regulations are followed."
This investigation was initiated by the DEA Providence Resident Office (PRO) after being notified about an individual who was passing fraudulent prescriptions for Schedule III Controlled Substances. The investigation further led to DEA's investigation and auditing of Rite Aid which found the company over dispensing prescriptions in violation of Rhode Island state law. PRO coordinated with RI State Police and the Attorney General's Office for further investigative action and prosecution.
This marks a novel and important new approach law enforcement and prosecutors are taking to hold companies responsible for failing to comply with the Controlled Substances Act or for their role in the ongoing opioid crisis.
In accordance with the settlement, the $300,000 will be used solely at the discretion of the Attorney General's Office to provide assistance in the implementation of programs and services for the prevention, treatment, and recovery relating to substance use disorders and for law enforcement safety measures. Attorney General Kilmartin announced that $10,000 of the settlement funds will go to purchase equipment for Rhode Island police departments for officers to safely field test suspected narcotics without risk of contamination.
"Those bad actors who profit from the illegal distribution of controlled substances, regardless if it is an individual or a corporation, should be required to forfeit monies that can then be put toward funding programs to help those who suffer with substance use," added Kilmartin.
Earlier this year, Attorney General Kilmartin announced a $50,000 grant to support the first statewide youth recovery community center through the disposition of an individual who pleaded guilty to operating an illegal marijuana grow.
In addition to the monetary penalty, Rite Aid agreed to undertook significant remedial measures to comply with the 100-dosage limitation including;
o Implemented electronic systems blocks to prevents the dispensing quantities over 100 units in Rhode Island stores
o Instructed its pharmacist employees in Rhode Island stores on the dispensing limitations imposed by the Controlled Substances Act; and
o Performed store-specific controlled substance reviews three times each year at every Rite Aid store in Rhode Island
The investigation was led by the DEA Providence Resident Office, with the assistance of the Rhode Island State Police, and the prosecution and settlement were initiated by Assistant Attorney General John Moreira and Special Assistant Attorney General John Perrotta.