WASHINGTON (AP) — Pharmacy chain Rite Aid Corp. and subsidiaries in eight states will pay $5 million in penalties for violating rules designed to control drugs prone to abuse.
The Justice Department said Monday that the nationwide drugstore operator also has agreed to a new compliance plan with the Drug Enforcement Administration and tighter monitoring of the over-the-counter ingredients used to make methamphetamines.
Officials said a DEA investigation found many instances where Rite Aid workers knowingly filled prescriptions for controlled substances when it knew those prescriptions were not issued for a legitimate medical reason.
The U.S. Attorney's office says the investigation revealed that of the 16,000 violations more than 12,000 came from a Lexington Rite Aid.
The South Broadway Rite Aid filled approximately 12,600 illegal prescriptions for a diet drug between January of 2001 and August of 2005.
Besides Kentucky, violations were found at Rite Aid pharmacies in California, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
At all 53 pharmacies investigated in those states, Rite Aid failed to properly document whether the amount of the drugs ordered were actually received, authorities said.
Rite Aid spokeswoman Ashley Flower said the company cooperated with investigators.
"We have strengthened our existing compliance program and we have retrained our pharmacy staff on these issues," she said.
The company, based in Camp Hill, Pa., operated 4,915 drugstores as of last month.
Investigators found significant shortages or surpluses of the most often abused drugs, including oxycodone and hydrocodone products, in what they said was a "pattern of noncompliance" with the Controlled Substances Act.
DEA Acting Administrator Michael Leonhart said the nation's pharmacies "must play a major role in the fight against drug abuse, so that together we can protect public health and keep our communities safe."
Under the terms of the agreement with the government, the company will conduct stricter electronic record-keeping to prevent individuals from stocking up on illegal amounts of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine by visiting different pharmacies.
Additionally, Rite Aid will audit the stockpiles of each pharmacy, and physically count its supplies of drugs on the controlled substances list more regularly.