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Pharmacy failed to have a system in place to ensure prescribers were licensed in Washington

Seattle – The U.S. Department of Justice and Bartell Drug Inc., today resolved allegations that, between July 2016 and August 2020, the pharmacy chain filled invalid prescriptions in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran.  Under the terms of the settlement, Bartell Drug will pay the government an $800,000 fine.  Bartell Drug fully cooperated in the investigation.

“For many, the descent into opioid abuse begins with improper prescriptions.  That’s why it is critical that our pharmacists serve as a check to keep the public safe,” said U.S. Attorney Moran.  “This case is a wake-up call for pharmacists to make sure they are responsibly scrutinizing each and every prescription.”

According to the facts in the settlement agreement, some 400 prescriptions were written by four medical professionals whose licenses to practice had been suspended or otherwise restricted by the Washington Medical Commission.  Bartell Drug Inc., allegedly failed to implement fully a computer system so that the physicians’ licensing could be verified automatically by pharmacists, and some Bartell pharmacists failed to conduct individual licensing checks, which resulted in Bartell Drugs filling invalid prescriptions for controlled substances.  Some of the prescriptions were written by medical professionals who had been publicly sanctioned and even indicted for violations of federal law.

“These actions are a breach of trust, compromising the health, safety and overall well-being of the public our health professionals are sworn to protect,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino.  “All DEA registrants are held to a higher standard with the responsibility of performing their due diligence in the safe prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances.”

“In our country’s fierce battle to curb the devastating opioid epidemic, pharmacies and other health care providers must be part of the solution, not the problem,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven J. Ryan of HHS-OIG.  “We will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to ensure health care professionals appropriately dispense controlled substances.”

In the settlement agreement, Bartell does not admit any wrongdoing or liability, and the government maintains that its allegations are well founded.  The fine will be paid by Bartell Drug and has no impact on the sale of Bartell Drug to Rite Aid Corporation.

The case was settled by Assistant United States Attorneys Kayla Stahman and Ashley Burns.

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