Walmart Sued by DOJ for Controlled Substances Act Violations

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against mega-retailer, Walmart, alleging their unlawful actions resulted in hundreds of thousands of violations of the Controlled Substances Act.Walmart DOJPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

As the chain operates both pharmacies and wholesale drug distribution centers, the complaint alleges varied violations by both segments. Their pharmacies are alleged to have knowingly filled thousands of controlled substance prescriptions not issued for legitimate medical purposes. Their distribution centers are accused of failing to report hundreds of thousands of suspicious orders to the Drug Enforcement Administration, a requirement of the Controlled Substances Act.

The government has stated these violations not only make Walmart complicit in the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States, but a significant contributor.

“As one of the largest pharmacy chains and wholesale drug distributors in the country, Walmart had the responsibility and the means to help prevent the diversion of prescription opioids,” Jeffrey Bossert Clark, acting assistant attorney general of the Civil Division, said in a statement.

“Instead, for years, it did the opposite — filling thousands of invalid prescriptions at its pharmacies and failing to report suspicious orders of opioids and other drugs placed by those pharmacies,” he added. “This unlawful conduct contributed to the epidemic of opioid abuse throughout the United States. Today’s filing represents an important step in the effort to hold Walmart accountable for such conduct.”

Walmart made a statement addressing the allegations and defended its position and actions.

“The Justice Department’s investigation is tainted by historical ethics violations, and this lawsuit invents a legal theory that unlawfully forces pharmacists to come between patients and their doctors, and is riddled with factual inaccuracies and cherry-picked documents taken out of context. Blaming pharmacists for not second-guessing the very doctors DEA approved to prescribe opioids is a transparent attempt to shift blame from DEA’s well-documented failures in keeping bad doctors from prescribing opioids in the first place,” it said.

If found liable, Walmart faces civil penalties of up to $67,627 for each unlawful prescription filled and $15,691 for each suspicious order not reported. Considering this case was the culmination of a multi-year investigation that uncovered thousands of instances of alleged activity, Walmart’s total cost incurred could be enormous.

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