Pharmaceutical company Omnicare, Inc. (NYSE:OCR), the nation’s largest pharmacy for long-term care facilities, must pay the U.S. government $50 million in a settlement over complaints it dispensed painkillers to nursing homes and other senior care facilities across the country without proper prescriptions or authorization.
The Covington, Ky.-based company’s settlement with the Department of Justice is the second-largest civil settlement in history of the Controlled Substances Act, and follows a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation of “alleged errors and deficiencies” in how certain Omnicare pharmacies distributed controlled substances.
“While DEA regulations specifically address retail and hospital pharmacy operations, long-term pharmacies have historically operated in a less defined middle ground, dispensing controlled substances on instructions from long-term care facility staff after the staff’s consultation with the ordering authorized prescriber,” said Omnicare in a statement about the settlement. “This civil settlement makes it clear that DEA interprets its regulations to require the ordering authorized prescriber to either sign an order containing all of the elements of a valid prescription prior to dispensing, or in limited emergency circumstances for Schedule II controlled substances to speak directly with the pharmacy prior to dispensing.”
Omnicare’s CEO, John Figueroa, said the pharmaceutical company “understands and accepts” the DEA’s efforts to make sure appropriate procedures are followed when distributing drugs. “While requiring authorized prescribers to communicate directly with the pharmacy can potentially cause delay, we have committed ourselves to shortening the time in which nursing home residents receive required medication,” he said.
As part of the settlement, Omnicare has agreed to make the payment within the next few days in exchange for being able to continue dispensing medication.
The company has developed an electronic prescribing application for controlled substances for the institutional market which is expected to improve patients’ quality of care while adhering to DEA regulatory interpretations; it also transmits electronic prescription orders for other non-controlled drugs.
Written by Alyssa Gerace