Walgreens Agrees to Pay $7.5 Million To End Lawsuit Over Unlicensed Pharmacist

George F. Indest III HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On February 4, 2020, Walgreens agreed to pay $7.5 million to settle allegations that for more than a decade it let an unlicensed pharmacist handle hundreds of thousands of prescriptions. The pharmacy giant settled with authorities after an employee was criminally charged with impersonating a pharmacist in California. Prosecutors said that from 2006 through 2017, she used the license numbers of other registered pharmacists to dispense more than 745,000 prescriptions at Walgreens stores.

A Phony Pharmacist.

According to the lawsuit, Kim Thien Le worked for Walgreens for more than 15 years, first as an intern and then a pharmacist, despite never having her license. Le allegedly used the license of another person with the same first name to dispense more than 100,000 prescriptions for dangerous controlled substances. By using the license numbers of legitimate pharmacists, she was able to illegally impersonate and dispense highly regulated controlled substances, including prescription opioids such as fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and codeine.

State Pharmacy Audit.

California state authorities discovered that she did not have a license during a pharmacy board audit in 2017. In California, as in most states, working as a pharmacist or pharmacist intern without a license from the state Board of Pharmacy is a crime. Le was criminally charged by the state with three felonies: false personation, identity theft, and obtaining money, labor or property by false pretenses. To read California Attorney General’s press release on this case, click here.

In a public statement, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office announced the lawsuit against Walgreens alleging the company failed to properly safeguard against an unlicensed employee working for it as a pharmacist. Click here to view the press release in full.

The settlement also requires Walgreens to ensure licensure compliance by implementing a verification program, posting proof of licensure, conducting annual audits, and submitting an annual compliance report.

To read about a similar case involving overprescribing in Florida, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Consult With A Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Pharmacists and Pharmacies.

We routinely provide deposition coverage to pharmacists, pharmacies and other health professionals being deposed in criminal cases, negligence cases, civil cases or disciplinary cases involving other health professionals.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing physicians, physician assistants and other health professionals in investigations and at Board of Pharmacy hearings. Call now or visit our website www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

“Walgreens to pay $7.5M in settlement over phony pharmacist.” AP News. (February 3, 2020). Web.

Zaveri, Mihir. “A Fake Pharmacist, 745,000 Prescriptions and a $7.5 Million Settlement.” The New York Times. (February 4, 2020). Web.

Clough, Craig. “Walgreens To Pay $7.5M To End Suit Over Fake Pharmacist.” Law360. (February 4, 2020). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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