The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed an intervention in a whistleblower lawsuit against the Rite Aid Corporation and its subsidiaries. The Justice Department’s March 13 press release states that it is suing one of the largest pharmacy chains with over 2,200 pharmacies across 17 states for violations of the False Claims Act brought by the original whistleblower as well as new charges under the Controlled Substances Act.
In its complaint, the DOJ alleges that Rite Aid “knowingly filled unlawful prescriptions for controlled substances.” The complaint not only alleges that Rite Aid repeatedly ignored red flags while fulfilling prescription orders for opioids, but the corporation also intentionally destroyed internal notes and memos pointing out suspicious prescribers. This allegedly led to Rite Aid filling hundreds of thousands of opioid prescriptions that did not meet legal requirements and because of the company’s practices, “opened the floodgates for millions of opioid pills and other controlled substances to flow illegally out of Rite Aid’s stores.”
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler for the Northern District of Ohio stated that pharmacies, physicians, corporations, and entities that contributed to the spread of opioids into communities “must answer for their role in the crisis we now face.”
U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland personally spoke on the lawsuit against Rite Aid, affirming that “The Justice Department is using every tool at our disposal to confront the opioid epidemic that is killing Americans and shattering communities across the country.”
AG Garland noted that holding corporations like Rite Aid accountable is an important part of confronting the opioid crisis. Other DOJ members have stated that the lawsuit against Rite Aid should serve as a warning to those in the pharmacy industry who choose to put profit over customer safety.