The biggest retailer in the U.S. just got served a civil complaint from the Department of Justice, with allegations of filling thousands of invalid prescriptions and not reporting suspicious opioid orders.
The complaint, released Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, claims that Walmart committed “hundreds of thousands of violations” of the Controlled Substances Act among its 5,000 in-store pharmacies — as early as June 2013 — and it could face billions of dollars in penalties.
According to the suit, the retailer “unlawfully filled thousands upon thousands of invalid controlled-substance prescriptions,” and that “for years, Walmart kept in place a system that it knew was failing to adequately detect and report suspicious orders.”
Jeffrey Bossert Clark, the acting chief of Justice’s Civil Division, stated:
“As one of the largest pharmacy chains and wholesale drug distributors in the country, Walmart had the responsibility and the means to help prevent the diversion of prescription opioids. Instead, for years, it did the opposite … This unlawful conduct contributed to the epidemic of opioid abuse throughout the United States.”
“Walmart managers put enormous pressure on pharmacists to fill prescriptions” and required them to process a high volume of prescriptions “as fast as possible” while denying them the authority to refuse to fill what they knew to be invalid prescriptions, the government said.
Federal officials also notes that Walmart continued to fill orders issued by the same prescribers that pharmacists had flagged as “pill mills”:
“In fact, some of those pill-mill prescribers specifically told their patients to fill their prescriptions at Walmart.”