Large-Scale Losses at CVS Pharmacies Prompt DEA Investigation

When more than 37,000 prescription pills go missing, it gets the attention of a lot of people. Including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The DEA, along with the California Board of Pharmacy, are investigating four CVS pharmacies in California where prescription meds simply disappeared.  The DEA served the stores with warrants nearly a year ago after it discovered that powerful prescription meds, such as Vicodin, were not accounted for.

As a result, CVS now faces more than 2,900 separate violations connected to the federal Controlled Substances Act because the inventory of drugs maintained by CVS did not match the company’s records. The imposed violations will likely result in the drug store chain paying out nearly $29 million in penalties.

The DEA investigation began in 2012 when it was discovered that a Sacramento CVS was missing nearly 20,000 hydrocodone pills. A pharmacy worker later admitted that she had stolen the drugs. As a result of this incident, the DEA began to investigate other stores in the region, and the results of their investigations were startling: more than 16,000 pills were missing from one CVS, 11,000 from another store, and two additional stores were missing about 5,000 pills.

Recent Statistics Paint a Troubling Picture of Prescription Med Losses

CVS is not the only DEA target, though. Last year, Walgreens agreed to pay more than $80 million in fines following a DEA investigation that showed a striking increase in orders for prescription pain killers from a number of Florida store and distribution centers.

The State Board of Pharmacy showed that, in 2013, more than 3 million prescription meds were lost or stolen from pharmacies in California alone:

  • More than 500,000 pills were taken as a result of off-hour break-ins.
  • More than 1 million pills were lost in transit.
  • More than 100,000 were taken as a result of armed robberies.
  • More than 358,000 pills were stolen from employees.
  • More than 5,000 pills were stolen by customers.