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Upstate pharmacy pays $275K in federal drug settlement

Jason Thomas //January 9, 2023//

Upstate pharmacy pays $275K in federal drug settlement

Jason Thomas //January 9, 2023//

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Savitz Drug Store Inc. has agreed to pay $275,000 to resolve allegations that it committed recordkeeping and dispensing violations of the Controlled Substances Act. These requirements are designed to prevent the diversion of controlled substances.

This civil settlement includes a corrective action plan and is the culmination of a joint investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency; South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, Bureau of Drug Control; and the U.S. Attorney’s Office that began in March 2022, when a routine controlled substance inspection by S.C. DHEC revealed that Savitz could not account for approximately 22,056 milliliters of promethazine with codeine.

“When pharmacists fail to comply with federal law, they can put controlled substances on the street and place the public at great risk,” said U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs in the release. “Our office is committed to working with our partners to hold pharmacists accountable for their responsibilities under federal law.”

The United States alleges that the pharmacist-in-charge of Savitz failed to properly safeguard his Controlled Substance Ordering System private user identification login and password, which resulted in a staff pharmacist using the CSOS login and password to order controlled substances at least 100 times.

“The mission of DEA’s Office of Diversion Control is to prevent, detect and investigate the diversion of controlled pharmaceutical and listed chemicals from legitimate sources,” said Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Atlanta Division of the DEA, in the release. “In this case, DEA Diversion Investigators did an outstanding job of uncovering this pharmacist’s systemic record-keeping violations and failures to safeguard controlled substances.”

The United States further alleges that due to Savitz’s failure to maintain complete and accurate controlled substance records and necessary oversight, a tenured pharmacy technician at Savitz was able to divert 46 bottles of promethazine with codeine (Schedule V) from Savitz over a three-month timeframe, the release stated. Promethazine with codeine is a cough syrup that can be used as the main ingredient in a drink mixture commonly known as “Lean” or “Purple Drank.” Effects of “Lean” or “Purple Drank” are consistent with the abuse characteristics of other opioids and result in a sedative and woozy or swooning euphoria.

The conduct outlined in the settlement agreement is merely alleged; the agreement does not constitute an admission of liability by Savitz, the release stated.

This matter was investigated by DHEC Agent Ann Shields, DEA Acting Group Supervisor Derek Barr, DEA Investigator Kelli Capehart, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Johanna Valenzuela of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina.