NEWS RELEASE
Office of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.


June 27, 2001 Media Inquiries: Sean Caine 410-576-6357

CVS SETTLES WITH STATE OVER ALLEGATIONS OF IMPROPER BILLING FOR ALTERED OXYCONTIN PRESCRIPTIONS

Baltimore - Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., announced today that CVS Corporation has agreed to pay approximately $75,000 to settle allegations that a pharmacist at one of its Baltimore City stores improperly billed the Maryland Medicaid program for numerous altered prescriptions for the controlled substance Oxycontin, a synthetic morphine used to treat moderate to severe pain in cancer patients and others.

Under the agreement, CVS, a national drugstore chain, will refund overpayments of $29,544.22, and pay $44,544.22 for additional damages and costs based on the allegation that the Medicaid program was defrauded when CVS inappropriately billed the program for providing the medication to a Medicaid recipient despite the alterations. Oxycontin is a highly potent time-release painkiller that has increasingly become subject to abuse.

An investigation by the Office of the Attorney General revealed that, on at least 23 separate occasions, the pharmacist, who has since been terminated by CVS, filled Oxycontin prescriptions that contained obvious changes to the quantity of pills ordered by the physician who had originally written the prescription. State regulations prohibit a pharmacist from filling such a prescription. In each instance, the customer altered the prescription by increasing the number of pills to be provided. On one occasion, for example, the customer took a prescription for 60 pills and added a "0", so that it read "600". On other occasions the customer’s alterations were made with a different color pen than was used by the doctor. After filling each prescription, the CVS pharmacist submitted a bill to Medicaid for reimbursement.

Attorney General Curran is a member of a task force comprised of other States’ Attorney’s General who are looking at ways of curbing the abuse of Oxycontin and other prescription drugs. "Oxycontin is a very dangerous drug if used improperly," Attorney General Curran said. "Our goal is to take the appropriate enforcement action against those who are responsible for the abuse of prescription medication, however we do not want to cause healthcare practitioners to be reluctant to utilize effective pain management medication."

Referrals of this matter have also been made to the Maryland Board of Pharmacy and the recipient fraud unit of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. This matter was investigated and resolved by the Office of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

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