A Walgreens here in San Diego once contributed to the opioid crisis by providing drugs to people without valid prescriptions, Drug Enforcement Administration documents show.
Around the height of the opioid epidemic in 2009, drug giant Walgreens handled nearly 1 in 5 oxycodone and hydrocodone pills shipped to pharmacies across the country, the Washington Post first reported.
Previously in 2013, Walgreens settled with the federal government for $80 million, admitting to negligently allowing oxycodone and other prescription pain killers to be diverted for abuse and illegal black market sales in Florida, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. At the time, it was the largest fine paid by a DEA registrant.
Buried in those settlement details, a document described a 2009 investigation into a San Diego Walgreens.
Documents said the Walgreens at 3005 Midway Drive played a role in the billions of opioids the pharmacy giant bought--those pills responsible for a substantial amount of the company's growth during the early 2000s.
The DEA warned the San Diego Walgreens a decade ago that it had several opioid violations including giving controlled substances to people based on prescriptions written by doctors not licensed to practice in California and also dispensing controlled substances to people the store should have known were diverting the drugs to others.
Walgreens issued a lengthy response, "We take great pride in the judgment and patient care of our 28,000 pharmacists. In the event of a rare and isolated instance when we learn of an employee acting improperly, we act swiftly to address the matter and cooperate fully with law enforcement. Our pharmacists also routinely cooperate with law enforcement investigations of the diversion of controlled substances, and report customers suspected of improper behavior.”
Walgreens also went on to point out it did not manufacture prescription opioid medications and had not internally distributed them since 2014.
Walgreens is currently wrapped up in a lawsuit against major distributors and drug manufacturers for its involvement in the national opioid crisis.