Drug Enforcement Administration

Seattle

Keith R. Weis, Special Agent in Charge

July 18, 2017

Contact: Jodie Underwood

Phone Number: (206) 553-5443

Safeway Pharmacies Pay $3 Million To Resolve Allegations Chain Failed To Timely Report Drug Diversion

SEATTLE, Wash. - The Department of Justice and (a division of Albertson’s Companies, Inc.) have reached a civil settlement of allegations the company failed to timely report controlled substances that were missing from pharmacies. Safeway will pay the United States $3 million and implement a compliance agreement reached with the Drug Enforcement (DEA) to ensure such notification lapses do not happen again.

DEA Special Agent in Charge Keith Weis was pleased with the settlement adding, “At this crucial juncture in our efforts to combat abuses of prescription drugs, it is imperative that pharmacies notify DEA immediately when drugs are stolen or missing.  A quick response to such reports is one of the best tools DEA has in stopping prescription drug diversion.”

According to the settlement agreement, the investigation began in April 2014, when the DEA learned that Safeway pharmacies in North Bend, Washington and Wasilla, Alaska did not notify DEA of losses of tens of thousands of hydrocodone tablets until months after Safeway discovered the pills were pilfered by employees.  DOJ’s investigation was later widened to review practices at all Safeway pharmacies nationwide between 2009 and 2014.  The investigation revealed a widespread practice of Safeway pharmacies failing to timely report missing or stolen controlled substances.  Today’s settlement resolves the allegations with Safeway acknowledging and accepting responsibility for failing to report the missing medications in a timely fashion.

“As our community struggles with an epidemic of opioid abuse, we call on all participants in drug distribution to carefully monitor their practices to stem the flow of narcotics to those who should not have them,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes.  “Pharmacies have a key role to play in making sure only those with legitimate prescriptions receive these powerful and potentially addictive drugs, including by timely reporting losses of those drugs.  Failure to do so hamstrings DEA’s investigative abilities and frustrates some of our best methods at curbing abuse.”

By law, pharmacies and other drug providers are required to notify the appropriate Field Division of the DEA of the theft or significant loss of any controlled substance within one business day of the discovery of the theft or loss.

This is the third DOJ settlement in the last year involving lax pharmacy controls and inconsistent adherence to DEA requirements.  In January 2017, DOJ reached an $11.75 million settlement with Costco and in July 2016 DOJ reached a settlement with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance over pharmacy control failures.

The case was investigated by the DEA’s Seattle Field Office, DEA’s Drug Diversion and Regulatory Litigation Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.  The settlement agreement was negotiated by Assistant United States Attorney Christina Fogg.

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