Large poster announces new awards at the Walmart Pharmacy in Clearwater, Florida, September 22, 2006.
Robert Sullivan/ Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
One of the advantages
at a time when dubious lawsuits against companies are relatively rare. The exception is the retrial by the Ministry of Justice against
to fill in the opioid prescriptions.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Delaware, alleges that Walmart failed to identify and report at least hundreds of thousands of suspicious orders, and that as a pharmacy, it illegally filled thousands and thousands of invalid prescriptions for controlled substances. According to the federal government, these actions contributed to the abuse of opiates and fuelled a national crisis.
In the court case it is claimed that the law on controlled substances and its regulations have been violated, but it is really a 160-page exercise in finding a scapegoat, because the company is known and has deep pockets. Walmart doesn’t push opioid addicts. Pharmacists complete valid prescriptions written by state-registered physicians and registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
When Walmart pharmacists discover a prescription that appears to be fraudulent or false, they are trained to refuse to fill it and document the incident. Walmart claims to have sifted through tens of thousands of reports of suspicious prescriptions to federal and state police departments. The DEA and state medical councils are responsible for investigating misconduct, revoking medical licenses and granting privileges.
However, the DEA rarely imposes such restrictions on doctors, and Walmart does not have the authority to act alone. When pharmacists refused to fill in questionable prescriptions, doctors were sometimes sued for libel and patients for discrimination. Several states have banned pharmacists from interfering in the doctor-patient relationship by guessing at valid prescriptions.
No federal law replaces these state laws. Instead, the DEA has provided informal advice on how pharmacists should check whether an opiate prescription is medically legitimate. However, these guidelines have no force of law and partially conflict with other federal guidelines and statements regarding the distribution of opioids.
Walmart points out that the DEA has suggested that certain combinations of opiates never have a legitimate medical purpose and should never be used. However, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services continue to treat these opioid combinations and want these prescriptions to be evaluated on the basis of individual medical conditions. Walmart filed a preventive lawsuit in October to clarify the standards for processing prescriptions, but received no response.
The DOJ complaint also mentions more than 190 warnings about suspected opiate prescriptions. It is claimed that Walmart often failed to authorize them properly and sometimes deliberately filled unlawful prescriptions, despite warnings. However, Walmart notes in its complaint that the Controlled Substances Act and its regulations do not contain the concept of red flags, let alone designate certain factors as red flags.
The federal government tries to circumvent this problem by stating that the Controlled Substances Act and its regulations require pharmacists to behave in accordance with the normal practice of the pharmacy’s profession. The complaint states that the identification and removal of red flags in opioid prescriptions is a recognised responsibility of a pharmacist in the pharmacy’s professional practice, and that failure to do so is a violation of federal law.
All this raises constitutional questions due to the lack of a legal status. An accusation of negligence, such as that asserted here, requires that a certain party allege a certain damage caused by a certain person. These are usually claims from one private party to another. The government can be sued because someone has broken the law, not because someone has been negligent. The government’s allegations of violations of the Controlled Substances Act are so general that it seems far-fetched to add a few more violations of the law.
Essentially, the DOJ is asking a federal court to bring down a state law in favor of an informal federal directive and a vague understanding of best pharmaceutical practice. This chicane was typical of
But Trump’s Department of Justice is extremely disappointing. Biden’s administration will be happy to cooperate with this prosecutor.
Newspaper editors: The Sausage of 2020 by Kim Strassel, Kyle Peterson, Mary O’Grady, Dan Henninger and Paul Gigot. Photo: Associated Press.
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Published in the printed edition of 30. December 2020.
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