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CVS accused of helping to fuel meth drug production, pays record $75-million fine

October 14, 2010 | 11:48 am

http://blogs.abcnews.com/photos/uncategorized/2009/05/04/ap_cvs_pharmacy_090218_main.jpg

CVS/Pharmacy will pay a record $75 million to settle a case brought by federal prosecutors accusing the drugstore giant of not doing enough to safeguard the sale of cold medicines used to produce methamphetamine.

According to prosecutors, CVS failed to properly regulate the sales of cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine, an ingredient used in the making of methamphetamine. Prosecutors alleged this oversight helped to fuel the meth trade in California and other states.

The settlement involved California and several states.

In a statement, the U.S. attorney's office described the case as the largest civil penalty ever paid under the controlled substances case.

“This case shows what happens when companies fail to follow their ethical and legal responsibilities,” said U.S. Atty. André Birotte Jr. in a statement. “CVS knew it had a duty to prevent methamphetamine trafficking, but it failed to take steps to control the sale of a regulated drug used by methamphetamine cooks as an essential ingredient for their poisonous stew.”

Authorities claim they found "thousands of violations of the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, which, among other things, limits the amount of pseudoephedrine that a customer can purchase in one day."

The alleged violations were found in L.A. County, Orange County and Clark County, Nev.

“This historic settlement underscores DEA’s commitment to protect the public’s health and safety against the scourge of methamphetamine,” said Michele M. Leonhart, the acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, in the statement. “CVS’s flagrant violation of the law resulted in the company becoming a direct link in the methamphetamine supply chain. DEA will continue to work with its state and local counterparts to disrupt the supply of methamphetamine, including inhibiting access to chemicals, such as pseudoephedrine, used to produce methamphetamine.”

In a statement, CVS apologized for the lapse.

“We are announcing today that we have resolved this issue, which unfortunately resulted from a breakdown in CVS/pharmacy’s normally high management and oversight standards,” said Thomas M. Ryan, chairman and CEO of CVS Caremark. “While this lapse occurred in 2007 and 2008 and has been addressed, it was an unacceptable breach of the company’s policies and was totally inconsistent with our values. CVS/pharmacy is unwavering in its support of the measures taken by the federal government and the states to prevent drug abuse."

-- Andrew Blankstein

twitter.com/anblanx

Photo: Associated Press

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