According to an article in DrugTopics.com of October last year, Walmart filed a suit against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) asking for a United States District Court judge to clarify the responsibilities and roles of pharmacies and pharmacists under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This suit was quickly thrown out of court as Walmart failed to allege action of the agency that was sufficient to show the DOJ waived its right to sovereign immunity.
The preemptive lawsuit was filed ahead of a suit filed by the DOJ against the retail giant in December of 2020, alleging that their pharmacists had distributed opioids unlawfully, in violation with the CSA and contributing to the addiction crisis in the United States.
DOJ Suit Against Walmart
The suit filed by the DOJ against Walmart was following a years long investigation by the Prescription Interdiction and Litigation Task Force of the Department of Justice. The task force alleges that Walmart pharmacies knowingly completed thousands of prescriptions for controlled substances that were not prescribed for legitimate medical purposes.
The suit claims that Walmart pharmacies filled prescriptions “outside of normal pharmacy practice.” Furthermore, the suit claims that Walmart did not report the thousands of “suspicious” prescription orders to the DEA.
Suit Against Walmart Could be Costly
If Walmart is liable for the many alleged violations to the controlled substances act, the retailer could face financial penalties up to $15,691 for each order that was not reported to the DEA, and up to $67,627 for each unlawful prescription. The total payout could reach into the billions of dollars.
Walmart Defends Their Pharmacies
Walmart defended itself and their pharmacies against these allegations in a blog post from December 2020, claiming the lawsuit was misguided and was attempting to force pharmacists to intervene between patient and doctor relationships. Walmart claims that their pharmacists have blocked thousands of questionable doctors and refused to fill hundreds of thousands of opioid prescriptions that they flagged as “problematic”. Walmart also claimed that they had been accused by physicians and health organizations of interfering too much in the doctor-patient relationship.
Walmart claims that one of the biggest problems with the DOJ’s attempt to turn pharmacies into DEA’s “doctor police” is that it forces the pharmacists to step in between patients and doctors in a way that Congress had never intended and also in a way that state and federal health regulators would argue isn’t allowed.
Walmart claims furthermore that the DOJ is putting pharmacists in an untenable position when threatening to hold them liable for violating unwritten expectations, while also holding them directly at odds with state pharmacy laws and even DEA’s public statements and approved doctors.
What Does this Mean for Your Pharmacy?
While most pharmacies do not come close to the number of stores available as Walmart with nearly 5,000 pharmacies across the U.S., this example lets all pharmacies know just how important it is to meet the requirements of the Controlled Substances Act. Another takeaway here is that the DEA and the DOJ experience sovereign immunity as a United States Department, and without bringing proof to show an injustice by the agency you are most likely fighting an uphill battle.
It is always best to err on the side of caution, and one way to do that is to strictly follow all rules for dispensing controlled substances as well as disposal of controlled substances. Improper disposal of controlled substances is one of the most common ways of promoting drug diversion, the use of prescriptions in a way that is unintended or by someone other than the patient.
DEA Drug Disposal Compliance
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Rx Destroyer™ is available in many different sizes to accommodate the needs of various facilities. This easy to use product comes ready for use with no need to add water, additives or batteries. Contact us to find the distributor near you and for more information on DEA compliant pharmaceutical waste disposal.