Andover-Based Pharmacy Agrees to $10 Million Fed Settlement Over Opioid Prescriptions

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Andover-based Injured Workers Pharmacy recently agreed to pay $10 million to settle claims it violated the Controlled Substances Act by dispensing drugs, including opioids, and submitting false bills to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Injured Workers Pharmacy, described by the federal government as, “the largest purchaser of opioids in the United States, among retail pharmacies,” also agreed to a five-year corrective action plan with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“Last week brought disturbing reports that opioid overdose deaths only increased last year in Massachusetts. Pharmacies are on the front lines of the prescription pill and opioid epidemic devastating our communities,” said Acting Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy.

As part of the settlement agreement, Levy’s office said, the pharmacy admitted that between 2014 and 2019 it failed to adequately “red flag” prescriptions, including high doses of opioids, early refills and dangerous drug combinations, before dispensing them to injured workers.

“Red flags” indicate prescriptions that may not have been issued for a legitimate medical purpose, such as abuse or diversion. The company previously settled a parallel investigation by the Massachusetts Attorney General into its dispensing practices.

The settlement also concerns an allegation that pharmacy employees did not check with a pharmacist or the prescribing medical professional, as required before submitting a payment claim to the Labor Department, which administers the federal workers’ compensation program. “Instead, claims employees, who lacked clinical pharmacy experience and training, submitted codes representing ‘prescriber consulted’ without consulting IWP pharmacists or prescribers,” Levy’s office said in a press release.

Injured Workers Pharmacy, the statement continues, has since developed additional procedures to review high-risk prescribing; increased training for all employees; eliminated production quotas for pharmacists and staff; implemented a drug diversion team to implement, establish and maintain diversion controls throughout the pharmacy; and established protocols to reduce losses of prescriptions shipped through the mail.

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