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article imageFeds investigating CVS stores over alleged missing pain pills

By Karen Graham     Mar 12, 2014 in Crime
CVS Caremark Corp. could be facing as much as $29 million in fines after allegedly losing track of around 37,000 prescription pain pills at four of its California stores. The federal probe stems from an incident in a Sacramento area store in 2012.
The L.A. Times’ David Lazarus reported on Monday that officials with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the California Board of Pharmacy told him the pain pills were taken from CVS stores in Modesto, Fairfield, Dixon and Turlock, California.
Casey Rettig, a special agent with the DEA's San Francisco office said the stores under investigation were served with warrants in May of last year after it was discovered that prescription pain medications such as Vicodin were allegedly missing and not accounted for. She declined to comment further on the case because of the ongoing investigation.
Virginia Herold, with the state Board of Pharmacy, which licenses and oversees all drugstores in the state, said the missing prescription pain pills are worth at least $10 a piece on the street.
CVS Caremark Corp. is facing 2,973 separate violations of the federal Controlled Substances Act because their records don't match the actual inventory of the missing drugs in question. CVS could face up to $29 million in fines for the alleged violations. Lazarus was told by a representative from the U.S. Attorney general's office that CVS has yet to respond to a letter sent last month that detailed the alleged shortages.
The DEA investigation stems from a 2012 probe into alleged missing prescription pain killers at a CVS store in Rocklin, a town northeast of Sacramento. A pharmacy worker was accused of hiding a bottle of Vicodin in her pants pocket, according to an affidavit by Brian Glaudel, an investigator with the DEA.
The pharmacy worker later admitted to CVS managers she had stolen more than 20,000 hydrocodone tablets, according to Glaudel. She was arrested and charged with embezzlement. It is not clear if the missing medication was ever recovered.
Because of this initial case, the DEA began an investigation into the pharmacy records and inventories of other CVS stores in the surrounding area and found over 16,000 hydrocodone tablets missing from a Turlock CVS, 11,000 from a Fairfield store and 5,000 each from CVS stores in Modesto and Dixon.
Michael DeAngelis, a CVS spokesman, said the investigations are aimed at "assuring compliance with state and federal requirements for the administrative record keeping related to invoices and inventory for controlled substances."
Last year, Walgreen agreed to pay $80 million in fines following a DEA investigation into unusually large orders for prescription painkillers at certain Florida distribution centers and stores. The Walgreen settlement was the largest in the DEA's history.
The DEA found that six pharmacies were sending requests to the distribution center for overly-large amounts of Oxycodone, and the distribution center was failing to report this to the DEA, as was required. The DEA says there were thousands of claims in the case.
More about CVS, California, DEA investigation, Pain medication
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