The Justice Department announced that Walgreens has agreed to pay the government $7.9 million to resolve allegations the company gave people enrolled in government-run health programs $25 gift cards if they moved their prescriptions over to the pharmacy chain.
Providing such inducements to beneficiaries of government health programs violates federal law, CNN reports. Although Walgreens’ ads generally noted that such offers did not apply to people insured through Medicare, Medicaid and similar programs, the government said the company often ignored these exemptions.
“This case represents the government’s strong commitment to pursuing improper practices in the retail pharmacy industry that have the effect of manipulating patient decisions,” Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General with the U.S. Justice Department, said in a news release.
The Department of Justice noted the claims settled by the agreement are allegations, and there has been no determination of liability.
In early April, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) searched six Walgreens stores and a distribution center in Florida in a crackdown on improper sales of prescription painkillers. Earlier this year, the DEA ordered two CVS pharmacies in Florida to stop selling controlled drugs. The agency was concerned CVS had failed to closely monitor sales of oxycodone.
The DEA has tried to tighten control on major national pharmacies to help prevent painkillers such as oxycodone from getting on the black market. The agency is investigating whether Walgreens allowed suspiciously large sales of prescription opioids, which might indicate the pills are being diverted.
DEA agents are searching through business records looking for what percentage of customers pay for oxycodone with cash. A high percentage could indicate drugs are being diverted to the black market.