By Julian Hattem - 06/11/13 07:05 PM EDT
According to the DEA, six Walgreens pharmacies and its distribution center in Jupiter, Fla., did not uphold necessary safeguards, allowing prescription painkillers to slip into the marketplace.
The agency claims that the distribution center failed to report suspicious orders, leading to tens of thousands of violations and shipping out at least three times as many drugs was as the average in Florida.
Additionally, the pharmacies filled prescriptions that they knew or should have known were illegitimate. They also did not mark millions of prescriptions as they should have, creating confusion for the DEA and preventing it from assessing the pharmacies' records.
The settlement is the largest in the DEA's history.
“National pharmaceutical chains are not exempt from following the law," said Mark Trouville, the DEA special agent in charge of the Miami division, in a statement. "This settlement sends out a clear message that all DEA registrants will be held accountable when they violate the law and threaten public health and safety."
Oxycodone is one of the most abused prescription drugs in Florida and across the country.
In addition to the payment, the distribution center and six pharmacies will also be prevented from distributing many drugs through the end of 2014. Walgreens is also creating an internal department to monitor compliance with the law.
“As the largest pharmacy chain in the U.S., we are fully committed to doing our part to prevent prescription drug abuse," said the company's president of pharmacy, health and wellness, Kermit Crawford, in a statement. "We also will continue to advocate for solutions that involve all parties – including leaders in the community, physicians, pharmacies, distributors and regulators – to play a role in finding practical solutions that combat the abuse of controlled substances and ensure patient access to critical medications."
-- This story was updated at 5:34 p.m. to add Kermit Crawford's statement