Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Business

Walgreens in Hudson, Port Richey part of chain's $80M settlement with DEA

MIAMI — Federal authorities have reached an $80 million civil settlement with the Walgreens pharmacy chain over rules violations that allowed tens of thousands of units of powerful painkillers such as oxycodone to illegally wind up in the hands of drug addicts and dealers, officials said Tuesday.

Mark R. Trouville, chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Miami field office, said Walgreens committed numerous record-keeping and dispensing violations of the Controlled Substances Act at a major East Coast distribution center in Jupiter and at six retail pharmacies around the state, including stores in Hudson and Port Richey. The drugs also included hydrocodone and Xanax.

Authorities said the Jupiter center failed to flag suspicious orders of drugs it received from pharmacies and the retail outlets routinely filled prescriptions that clearly were not for a legitimate medical use. The upshot was many more doses of prescription drugs were available illegally on the street.

Trouville called Walgreens' actions "a clear example of inexcusable corporate conduct that existed only for greed and profit."

Walgreens, based in Deerfield, Ill., has more than 8,000 stores nationwide and had sales in 2012 of $72 billion, according to the company's website.

"As the largest pharmacy chain in the U.S., we are fully committed to doing our part to prevent prescription drug abuse," said Kermit Crawford, president of pharmacy, health and wellness at Walgreens. "We have worked closely with the DEA over the past several months to reach this agreement."

Florida has been a major East Coast source of highly addictive painkillers for illicit dealers and addicts. An ongoing crackdown in recent years — including passage of better prescription monitoring laws and numerous arrests of doctors, clinic operators and pharmacy owners — has reduced the number of illegal "pill mills" operating in the state.

Miami U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said the Walgreens civil penalty was the largest in the history of the Controlled Substances Act. He said Walgreens also agreed not to dispense certain tightly controlled drugs until September 2014 through the Jupiter center and until May 2014 at the six Walgreens locations, including two in Fort Pierce and one each in Fort Myers and Oviedo.

The settlement also resolves similar allegations against Walgreens retail pharmacies in Colorado, Michigan and New York, Ferrer said. No criminal charges have been filed.

A surge of oxycodone prescriptions at Walgreens became apparent after 2009, according to the DEA. For example, the Hudson store went from 388,100 oxycodone units purchased in 2009 to 2.1 million in 2011. Trouville said the national average for pharmacy purchases of oxycodone is about 73,000 units.

"No one with an ounce of common sense can believe this is the proper way to conduct the business of medicine," he said.

The settlement also requires that Walgreens create a department to ensure regulatory compliance and a training program for employees, and that it end compensation for pharmacists based on prescriptions filled.

Comments
Chase to make $20B investment, raise wages

Chase to make $20B investment, raise wages

JPMorgan Chase announced Tuesday that it will boost wages, open new branches and hire thousands of new workers, citing improved economic performance and sweeping changes to the U.S. tax code. Wages will rise to between $15 and $18 an hour from a rang...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Disney offering staff $1,000 bonuses, new education funding

Disney offering staff $1,000 bonuses, new education funding

NEW YORK — The Walt Disney Co. will give more than 125,000 eligible employees a one-time $1,000 cash bonus and invest $50 million in an education funding program. The media company said Tuesday the bonuses will go to all full and part-time non-execut...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampa micro housing advocates find big demand for living small

Tampa micro housing advocates find big demand for living small

TAMPA — When Omar Garcia announced plans to transform a vacant downtown office building into 120 micro apartments of about 300 square feet each, the calls and checks poured in."We got 90 reservations like that," Garcia said Tuesday, snapping his fing...
Updated: 4 hours ago
CEO Nancy Tower’s goal for Tampa Electric: renewable energy

CEO Nancy Tower’s goal for Tampa Electric: renewable energy

TAMPA — Tampa Electric Co.’s future will be green if new CEO Nancy Tower has anything to say about it. Speaking at a panel Tuesday, Tower outlined her vision for pushing the Tampa-based utility toward renewable energy."One of the biggest things we’re...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Elon Musk’s new pay package tied to massive Tesla growth

Elon Musk’s new pay package tied to massive Tesla growth

Associated PressPALO ALTO, Calif.— Elon Musk will remain at Tesla Inc. under a 10-year, all-or-nothing pay package that demands massive growth. The agreement, revealed Tuesday in a regulatory filing, requires that Tesla grow in $50 billion leaps, to ...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Verizon misses its profit forecast

Associated PressNEW YORK — Verizon Communications Inc. on Tuesday reported fourth-quarter earnings of $18.67 billion.On a per-share basis, the New York-based company said it had profits of $4.56. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, were ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Hungry at Gasparilla? Eight great restaurants near the parade route

Hungry at Gasparilla? Eight great restaurants near the parade route

GASPARILLA: THE DINING EDITIONGasparilla. Some things are certain. There will be scantily clad pirates and liquid libations. At some point, it is advised to eat some food. Here are some of the top places that are easily accessed along the invasion ro...
Published: 01/23/18

Hernando Business Digest for Jan. 26

Business digestBrieflySMALL BUSINESS BRIDGE LOANS HELP HERNANDO: The Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of South Florida facilitated 141 Florida Emergency Bridge Loans, totalling $7,515,100 in funding. In Hernando County, eig...
Published: 01/23/18
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri severs contract with CareerSource Pinellas

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri severs contract with CareerSource Pinellas

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri severed his agency’s contract with CareerSource Pinellas on Monday after learning that the jobs center told the state it helped 624 sheriff’s employees get hired since 2014.The sheriff said he has no record of CareerSou...
Published: 01/22/18
Water Street Tampa sketches vision for Marriott Waterside (with video)

Water Street Tampa sketches vision for Marriott Waterside (with video)

TAMPA — Water Street Tampa developers outlined some broad goals for their planned $40 million renovation of the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina in a video posted to social media on Monday.In short, they want a hotel that feels inclusive, not ...
Published: 01/22/18