AG Healey’s Youth Opioid Prevention Grant Program Grows to $700,000 After Settlement with Walgreens
Second Agreement Reached with National Pharmacy Over Opioid Dispensing; AG’s Office Received Nearly $4 Million in Grant Applications, Will Focus on Unmet Need
BOSTON – As a result of a settlement with Walgreen Co. over its improper dispensing of controlled substances, a statewide grant program created by the Attorney General’s Office has grown to $700,000, supplemented with an additional $200,000 from Walgreens, to help fund education and prevention programs for schools in Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
Following the announcement of the AG’s Youth Opioid Prevention grant program in November 2016, which was established utilizing $500,000 from a groundbreaking settlement with CVS Pharmacy Inc., the AG’s Office has already received 120 applications totaling nearly $4 million in requested funding from schools, community health centers, municipalities, police departments, and non-profits.
“Supporting youth opioid education and prevention programs is a top priority for my office and we are seeing an incredible unmet need for funding across the state,” said AG Healey. “That’s why we decided to structure these settlements to put as many resources into local communities as possible. This won’t allow us to fund every great proposal, but it’s an important step toward beating this epidemic.”
The assurance of discontinuance with Walgreens, filed on Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court, along with a settlement agreement, resolves allegations that certain Walgreens pharmacies in Massachusetts failed to monitor drug use patterns or use sound professional judgment when dispensing controlled substances, particularly opioids.
AG Healey’s Medicaid Fraud Division conducted an investigation into certain policies, acts and practices of Walgreens relating to the dispensing of opioids and other controlled substances to individuals enrolled in the state’s Controlled Substance Management Program (CSMP).
The state’s Medicaid Program, known as MassHealth, administers the CSMP, a program for its members who use large quantities of prescribed drugs. Except in very limited circumstances, CSMP regulations require that a CSMP member obtain all prescribed medications from a single pharmacy known as the member’s primary pharmacy. The primary pharmacy is required to monitor the prescription use pattern of each CSMP member and use sound professional judgment when dispensing all prescription drugs.
The AG’s investigation found that in certain instances, Walgreens pharmacies in Massachusetts dispensed controlled substances to MassHealth members enrolled in the CSMP in exchange for an out-of-pocket payment rather than billing MassHealth, which the AG’s Office alleges is a violation of state laws and regulations.
Pursuant to the assurance, Walgreens will update its written policies and procedures with respect to the obligations of primary and non-primary pharmacies under the CSMP and the general rule that Walgreens personnel should not dispense prescriptions to CSMP members in exchange for out-of-pocket payments. Walgreens will also ensure that all of its Massachusetts pharmacy staff is trained on the updated written policies and procedures.
Walgreens is also required to maintain and provide training on policies and procedures mandating that Walgreens pharmacy staff in Massachusetts access the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) website and review the prescription holder’s prescription history before dispensing certain specified drugs to any prescription holder, not just MassHealth members enrolled in the CSMP.
As a part of this settlement, Walgreens has also agreed to make a payment of $200,000, which will be directed to the AG’s Youth Opioid Prevention grant program. The AG’s Office is currently reviewing grant applications. This additional money will expand the AG’s capacity to award funding.
The Youth Opioid Prevention grant program was set up utilizing $500,000 from a September settlement in which CVS agreed to pay $795,000 and strengthen its policies and procedures around the dispensing of opioids and require its Massachusetts pharmacy staff to check the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program before filling prescriptions for commonly misused opioids.
These settlements are one more way AG Healey is working to address the growing addiction crisis in Massachusetts. The AG’s Office is looking at a host of other practices, from marketing by pharmaceutical companies, to pill diversion and drug trafficking by criminal entities, to coverage for substance abuse treatment by insurance companies.
The AG’s Office also continues to work on solutions that include eliminating barriers to treatment and supporting prevention and education initiatives across the state.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Stephany Collamore and Investigator Eric Panicucci, both of the AG’s Medicaid Fraud Division.