Publication date: Nov 07, 2019
During the time period when Walgreens distributed controlled substances to its own pharmacies, our distribution center employees and pharmacy professionals were incredibly diligent and careful to ensure that (1) our pharmacies had medications in stock when patients needed them and (2) our pharmacies were not involved in the diversion of controlled substances. Context is important: First, individual pharmacies have very different needs and ordering patterns vary depending on a number of different factors, including proximity to emergency rooms, surgical centers, and other sources of prescriptions for pain treatment; whether they offer 24-hour service; and the amount and type of local pharmacy competition. The mere fact that Walgreens distributed any given volume of medications to any given pharmacy does not mean that the pharmacy filled any prescriptions it should not have filled. Walgreens also is a regular participant in National Prescription Drug Take Back Days sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration, where select Walgreens stores throughout the country serve as collection points for law enforcement to collect unwanted, unused or expired medications for safe disposal. Walgreens, and our national network of community pharmacists, will continue to be deeply committed to working on solutions to the opioid epidemic, and to best serving the health needs of our customers and patients. Before 2014, Walgreens delivered opioid medications – among many other types of medications – only to our own pharmacies, staffed by our own pharmacy professionals. We never sold opioid medications to pain clinics, internet pharmacies or the -pill mills” that fueled the national opioid crisis. In raising its concerns, it appears that Cardinal was unaware that the Modesto pharmacy is within five miles of two hospitals, multiple surgery centers and other sources of prescriptions for pain treatment, or that this location was also used by the local hospice, all of which drove higher than expected demand for prescription pain medications. The legitimate demand created by these lawful uses of pain medication demonstrate that volume alone does not establish diversion and that a rush to judgment can result in real harm to patients in need. During the time when Cardinal was completing its follow-up on the issues it had raised, the Modesto pharmacy relied on inter-store shipments in order to continue meeting the legitimate prescription needs of its patients. Here, Ms. Haynes points out that her pharmacy is directly across the street from a major hospital where the emergency medicine doctor was writing many legitimate prescriptions for medications containing oxycodone, and that she is being forced to turn away patients with legitimate and immediate medical needs as the result of her inability to order sufficient quantities. Individual pharmacies have very different needs, and ordering patterns vary depending on all sorts of factors, including proximity to emergency rooms, surgical centers, and other sources of prescriptions for pain treatment; whether they offer 24-hour service; and the amount and type of local pharmacy competition.
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