US sues CVS, accused of illegally dispensing drugs through Omnicare

The federal government filed a lawsuit Dec. 17 against CVS Health and its subsidiary, Omnicare, alleging Omnicare pharmacies illegally distributed drugs to elderly and disabled residents of thousands of assisted living facilities and violated the False Claims Act. 

CVS Health acquired Omnicare in 2015, the country's largest provider of pharmacy services to long-term care facilities. Omnicare operates 160 pharmacies across the country and dispenses prescription drugs to over a million patients per year. 

The lawsuit alleges that from 2010 to 2018, Omnicare fraudulently billed Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare for hundreds of thousands of drugs dispensed without valid prescriptions. The drugs were allegedly dispensed to elderly and disabled residents in assisted living facilities, group homes and other long-term care facilities.

Omnicare and CVS allegedly allowed Omnicare pharmacies to dispense drugs with prescriptions that had expired, were out of refills or otherwise invalid. The lawsuit said senior management at both Omnicare and CVS knew the invalid prescriptions were being filled,  but did nothing to stop it until they found out they were being investigated. 

According to the lawsuit, instead of getting new prescriptions for those that had expired, pharmacists assigned new numbers to the old prescriptions and filled them as if they were new, a practice the lawsuit calls rolling over a prescription. These "rollover" prescriptions were filled for patients in at least 1,766 residential facilities, the lawsuit claims. 

Many of the prescriptions were written to treat serious, chronic conditions, such as dementia, heart disease and diabetes, the lawsuit claims. 

Omnicare rolled over prescriptions so it could push its products out the door as fast as possible, the federal government claims, and caused hundreds of thousands of false claims to be submitted to federal healthcare programs in the process. 

Omnicare has faced several federal investigations and lawsuits in the past, including False Claim Act allegations in 28 states in 2017. 

Read the full lawsuit here.

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