As part of the federal government’s multi-front attack on opioid abuse, the Department of Justice announced on Friday, February 12 that CVS Pharmacy, Inc. has agreed to pay $8 million to settle allegations that it violated the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). According to its press release, the federal government had alleged that CVS’s Maryland pharmacies had “dispensed controlled substances pursuant to prescriptions that were not issued for a legitimate medical purpose.” Under the CSA, knowingly filling an illegitimate prescription can result in civil penalties. 

The release focused on statements by the US Attorney of the District of Maryland and the DEA Special Agent in Charge, who noted that pharmacists and pharmacies are key gatekeepers in avoiding the diversion of controlled substances for abuse. Their statements also note that the government will continue to hold pharmacies accountable if they fail in their duties to assure that the prescriptions they fill are issued for legitimate purposes.

As this and other recent settlements demonstrate, pharmacies can expect increased scrutiny as federal and state governments intensify their focus on the role of pharmacies in the spread of prescription drug abuse.