PharMerica pays $31.5 million to settle invalid prescription allegations

Fresh off settlement negotiations for allegedly taking kickbacks from Abbott Laboratories Inc. to promote the drug Depakote, PharMerica Corp. cut a $31.5 million check to settle allegations surrounding prescription practices for Schedule II drugs, according to a Department of Justice statement.

Federal prosecutors allege the long-term care pharmacy operator routinely dispensed Schedule II drugs in non-emergency situations without a written prescription, allowing nursing home staff to order medications and dispensing them without physician confirmation. PharMerica then allegedly billed Medicare Part D for the improperly dispensed drugs, a violation of the False Claims Act. Former pharmacist Jennifer Denk originally brought the false claims violations against the company.

The Louisville-based company paid $8 million to resolve violations of the Controlled Substances Act and $23.5 million for False Claims Act violations. PharMerica also entered into a corporate integrity agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.

As the second-largest pharmacy operator in the country, PharMerica operates 98 pharmacies across 45 states. 

This year, multi-million dollar kickback settlements among pharmaceutical manufacturers have stolen the spotlight, but this case highlights the fact that high-paying fraud settlements often go beyond pharmaceutical manufacturers and into the pharmacy itself. In December, a slew of pharmacy-related fraud investigations came to light, some of them costing the federal government as much as $60 million.

For more:
- here's the DOJ announcement