Justice Department sues Rite Aid for allegedly filling illegal opioid prescriptions

The U.S. government is suing pharmacy chain Rite Aid alleging that it ignored "obvious red flags" when filling opioid prescriptions between 2014 and 2019, according to a March 14 report from The Washington Post

The complaint alleges that Rite Aid pharmacists filled hundreds of prescriptions for controlled substances that were "medically unnecessary" and "lacked a medically accepted indication, or were not issued in the usual course of professional practice." 

The lawsuit claims that pharmacists ignored red flags or did little to nothing to report them. It also alleges that Rite Aid management reprimanded pharmacists who raised concern. 

Rite Aid pharmacists reportedly refilled opioid prescriptions early, before patients should have run out; filled prescriptions for unusually high doses and quantities; and refilled prescriptions from providers who had already been flagged for "writing illegitimate prescriptions." 

Rite Aid's government affairs department also reportedly encouraged another department to delete warnings left by employees in Rite Aid's dispensing software that indicated problems with overprescribing. 

In 2015, a pharmacist was reprimanded for leaving a note on a prescriber profile that said, "this may be a cash only pill mill???" 

As the illegal prescriptions were filled, Rite Aid allegedly submitted false and fraudulent claims for reimbursement to Medicare and Medicaid. 

The Justice Department's complaint joins a whistleblower suit originally filed in 2019 by former Rite Aid employees. 

Rite Aid currently operates 2,300 stores, employing 6,300 pharmacists across 17 states. 

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