PharMerica Corp. will pay the government $31.5 million to settle allegations that it dispensed narcotic drugs without valid prescriptions, the long-term-care pharmacy and the government announced Thursday.
The government alleged that PharMerica, which dispenses medications to residents of long-term-care facilities, routinely dispensed Schedule II controlled drugs in non-emergency situations without prescriptions from treating physicians. The government alleged that this violated the Controlled Substances Act because nursing home staff were able to order narcotics and pharmacists dispensed them without confirming that a doctor had deemed the narcotics to be medically necessary.
This also violated the False Claims Act, the government alleged, in that it led to submission of false claims to Medicare Part D for improperly dispensed drugs.
The settlement “contains no allegations or findings that controlled substances were diverted or that any patient was harmed,” according to a PharMerica news release. The company also said it changed its operating policies in 2010 to enhance procedures related to the dispensing of controlled substances.
“PharMerica is pleased to resolve this matter,” according to the news release. “The Company will remain diligent in its efforts to comply with all applicable laws and regulations in the markets and jurisdictions in which it operates while continuing to deliver industry-leading performance in accordance with the highest ethical standards.”
The settlement grew out of a lawsuit originally filed by a whistle-blower, Jennifer Buth, a former PharMerica pharmacist. Under the False Claims Act, whistle-blowers may file lawsuits on behalf of the government, and the government may later intervene in the lawsuits, as it did in this case for some of Buth's allegations. Whistle-blowers are entitled to a percentage of whatever money the government is able to recover. In this case, Buth will receive $4.3 million.