Drugstore chain Rite Aid is facing a lawsuit from the United States government over its alleged contribution to the nation’s opioid epidemic.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a complaint on Monday accusing Rite Aid, one of the largest pharmacy chains in the country, of ignoring “obvious red flags” when filling opioid prescriptions for customers. The company operates more than 2,200 locations in the U.S.
“Rite Aid filled prescriptions for powerful opioid painkillers, such as oxycodone, fentanyl, and other highly diverted controlled substances that were unlawful and medically unnecessary,” the complaint reads. “By doing so, Rite Aid violated its legal obligations and significantly contributed to this country’s opioid crisis.”
The complaint alleges that from “at least May 2014 to June 2019,” Rite Aid “filled at least hundreds of thousands of unlawful prescriptions for controlled substances that were medically unnecessary, lacked a medically accepted indication, or were not issued in the usual course of professional practice.”
The Dallas Express reached out to Rite Aid for a statement but was told by Alicja Wojczyk, senior manager of external communications, that the company is “declining to comment as this is a litigation matter.”
In a statement released by the DOJ, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said, “We allege that Rite Aid filled hundreds of thousands of prescriptions that did not meet legal requirements.”
“According to our complaint, Rite Aid’s pharmacists repeatedly filled prescriptions for controlled substances with obvious red flags, and Rite Aid intentionally deleted internal notes about suspicious prescribers,” he said. “These practices opened the floodgates for millions of opioid pills and other controlled substances to flow illegally out of Rite Aid’s stores.”
The complaint alleges that Rite Aid purposefully deleted pharmacists’ internal notes about suspicious prescribers, such as, “cash only pill mill???” and “DO NOT FILL CONTROLS.”
Instead of ensuring these warnings were available to all pharmacists, the company reprimanded pharmacists who wrote such notes, telling them “to always be very cautious of what is put in writing.”
“The Justice Department is using every tool at our disposal to confront the opioid epidemic that is killing Americans and shattering communities across the country,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “That includes holding corporations, like Rite Aid, accountable for knowingly filling unlawful prescriptions for controlled substances.”