CVS Health Corp agreed to pay a $1.5 million civil fine to resolve U.S. charges that some of its pharmacies in Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York failed to report in a timely manner the loss or theft of prescription drugs, including the opioid hydrocodone.
This is where the real diversion is coming from: the supply chain. Massive quantities of opioid tablets are embezzled, stolen, or “lost” as the pills are transported from the manufacturer to their warehouses, to various other warehouses, and finally to pharmacies.
The workers handling these bulk shipments of pills as they travel throughout the country are not scrutinized as carefully as pain patients receiving just a monthly supply.
The pills aren’t carefully audited or recounted at each stop on their journey, as they are for patients, so losses aren’t obvious until some accounting goes awry. Losses of money are noticeable, whereas losses of pills remain undetected until they result in a loss of money.
There were never been enough leftover opioid tablets in “grandma’s medicine cabinet” to fuel the rising rates of prescription opioid abuse seen in the early 2000’s.
Richard Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, on Thursday said delays contribute to opioid abuse, and that CVS’ failures impeded the ability of Drug Enforcement Administration agents to investigate, violating federal law.
“This settlement is significant because it shows that big chain pharmacies, like CVS, are taking responsibility for violating federal law, which is a step in the right direction for curbing the opioid epidemic,” DEA Special Agent-in-Charge James Hunt said in a statement
So corporations are lauded for “taking responsibility” by paying a fine when they were caught trying to hide this breach in their supply chain. Did they even admit guilt, or did just pay the fine without admitting it as all the big banks did in the financial crisis?
This seems to be a time-honored American tradition: “I’ll pay the fine but I did nothing wrong.”