The federal government’s fight against opioid use in the U.S. is cranking up, and one of the opponents is Rite Aid.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is suing the pharmacy player, accusing it of filling hundreds of thousands of prescriptions for illegal drugs including opioid between May 2014 and June 2019. The DOJ believes Rite Aid ignored any guidance that has been given to pharmacists about illegal drug distribution. Rite Aid is being accused of filling prescriptions for “trinities,” which is a combination of opioids, benzodiazepine and muscle relaxants — a favorite of drug abusers. The government further alleges that Rite Aid not only ignored substantial evidence from multiple sources that its stores were dispensing unlawful prescriptions, including from certain pharmacists, its distributor, and its own internal data, but compounded its failure to act by intentionally deleting internal notes about suspicious prescribers written by Rite Aid pharmacists and directing district managers to tell pharmacists "to be mindful of everything that is put in writing."
Rite Aid, which has more than 2,300 stores in 17 states, also is being accused of violating the False Claims Act by submitting false subscription claims to Medicare, Medicaid and other government healthcare programs.
In 2019, a lawsuit that included accusations from two pharmacists and a pharmacy technician from Rite Aid was filed. The DOJ has joined that case as well. Walmart and AmerisourceBergen Corp., a drug distributor, also have been sued by the DOJ.
Rite Aid has been at the center of a number of whistleblower lawsuits over the last few years. Back in 2019, the pharmacy won its appeal that accused the retailer of over-billing government healthcare programs. The accuser, Azam Rahimi, based claims on publicly disclosed information.
Rite Aid paid the federal government just under $3 million to settled a case the accused the pharmacy company of violating the False Claims Act by offering gift cards to those receiving Medicare and Medicaid if they transferred their prescriptions to Rite Aid pharmacies.