Long-term care pharmacy to pay $3 million in controlled substance settlement

Published: Dec. 13, 2022 at 1:20 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (WIBW) - A Kansas-based long-term care pharmacy will pay $3 million as part of a settlement that resolves allegations that it illegally dispensed controlled substances.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas says on Tuesday, Dec. 13, that PharmScript of KS, LLC, a long-term care pharmacy in Lenexa, has agreed to pay $3 million to resolve allegations that it violated the law by dispensing controlled substances to residents without a valid prescription.

The Office also indicated that the settlement resolves allegations that the company was wrongfully reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Officials said PharmScript is a wholly owned subsidiary of PharmScript Holdco, LLC, and provides medication and pharmaceutical services to those in skilled nursing facilities and to residents in assisted living facilities in both Kansas and Missouri. The Kansas branch self-reported violations of the Controlled Substance Act to the Drug Enforcement Administration which conducted its own investigation.

“This resolution sends a message that there are rules to be followed when dispensing controlled substances,” said Duston Slinkard, United States Attorney for the District of Kansas. “This office makes it a priority to protect patients from being supplied drugs without valid prescriptions and to ensure that the limited federal program resources are spent according to federal law.”

Special Agent in Charge Michael A. Davis leads the DEA division that led the investigations in Kansas and Missouri.

“Because opioids are highly addictive, doctors and pharmacies have a duty to ensure they are prescribing controlled medications according to law to protect their patients’ health and safety,” said Davis. “PharmScript’s dispensing practices were so egregious, it warranted a significant civil penalty.”

In nearly all cases, officials indicated that Schedule II controlled substances require a written prescription by a doctor and refills are not permitted by law. The law allows pharmacists to dispense drugs - like opioid pain medications - without a written prescription only in true emergency situations.

When allowed for emergencies, the law stipulates it is only for the amount of drugs needed to treat the patient during the emergency period. Emergency prescriptions are required to be promptly written down and signed by an authorizing physician within one week of issuance. Failure to meet these requirements results in an illegal dispensing of controlled substances.

“Improperly dispensing opioids undermines critical measures to address the opioid crisis and puts vulnerable patients at serious risk of overdose and harm,” said Curt L. Muller, Special Agent in Charge with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General. “Working closely with our law enforcement partners, HHS-OIG will continue to ensure that bad actors are held accountable for disregarding the safety and well-being of patients.”

The government alleged that between Oct. 1, 2019, through March 31, 2021, PharmScript dispensed Schedule II controlled substances for emergencies when quantities dispensed were greater than what was needed for the emergency. It also alleged that the company failed to get a written prescription within seven days after verbal authorization. Lastly, it alleged that other controlled substances were dispensed without a prescription and with no verbal authorization.

Also resolved, officials said, were claims that the company was improperly paid by the Medicare and Medicaid programs for dispensing controlled substances without a prescription.