Pharmacy PharMerica pays $31.5 Million settling whistleblower suit alleging drug distribution without physician ok

Long-Term Care Pharmacy to Pay $31.5 Million to Settle Lawsuit Alleging Violations of Controlled Substances Act and False Claims Act, according to the United States Department of Justice.
The False Claims Act claims resolved by today’s settlement were originally brought by whistleblower Jennifer Denk, a pharmacist formerly employed by PharMerica, under the whistleblower provisions of the act, which authorize private parties to sue on behalf of the United States and to receive a portion of any recovery.  The act permits the United States to intervene and take over the lawsuit, as it did in this case with respect to some of Ms. Denk’s allegations.  Ms. Denk will receive $4.3 million as her share of the settlement.
The government’s suit alleged that PharMerica pharmacies operating across the country routinely dispensed Schedule II controlled drugs in non-emergency situations without first obtaining a written prescription from a treating physician.  According to the complaint, PharMerica’s actions violated the Controlled Substances Act by enabling nursing home staff to order narcotics, and pharmacists to dispense them, without confirming that a physician had made a medical judgment as to whether the narcotics were necessary and should be administered to the resident.  Under the settlement, PharMerica has agreed to pay $8 million to resolve these allegations.The government’s complaint also alleged that PharMerica violated the False Claims Act by knowingly causing the submission of false claims to Medicare Part D for improperly dispensed Schedule II drugs.  The False Claims Act imposes treble damages and penalties for the knowing submission of false claims for federal funds.  PharMerica has agreed to pay $23.5 million to resolve its alleged False Claims Act violations.PharMerica Corporation has agreed to pay the United States $31.5 million to resolve a lawsuit alleging that they violated the Controlled Substances Act by dispensing Schedule II controlled drugs without a valid prescription and violated the False Claims Act by submitting false claims to Medicare for these improperly dispensed drugs, the Justice Department announced today.

PharMerica is a long-term care pharmacy that dispenses medications to residents of long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities.  Many of the prescriptions filled by PharMerica are for controlled substances listed in Schedule II under the Controlled Substances Act.  Schedule II drugs, such as oxycodone and fentanyl, can cause significant harm if used improperly and have a high potential for abuse.

“The legal requirement that narcotics like oxycodone be prescribed by a physician is a crucial patient protection, which is especially important to safeguard the health of the vulnerable elderly and disabled patients in long term care facilities,” said Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).  “Our agency is dedicated to protecting the taxpayer-funded Medicare and Medicaid programs as well as the millions of beneficiaries who rely on those programs for their health and well-being.”