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37K Hydrocodone pills missing from CVS may have landed on the black market

California stores are in serious trouble after thousands of hydrocodone pills end up on the black market.
California stores are in serious trouble after thousands of hydrocodone pills end up on the black market.
abc news

CVS Caremark Corp. is facing millions of dollars in fines after somewhere around 37 thousand of the most widely known abused pain pills in the US were found to be missing from several California pharmacies.

The stores that are being investigated by the California Board of Pharmacy as well as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration are in Modesto, Dixon Fairfield and Turlock. Search warrants have been executed for all of the stores involved.

Authorities believe many of the hydrocodone pills have been sold on the black market.

Executive officer of the state Board of Pharmacy, Virginia Herold, said, "each of the missing pills such as the Vicodin and Narco could have a street value of as much as $10 each."

Spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento, Lauren Horwood, said, "CVS faces 2,973 possible violations of the federal Controlled Substances Act for alleged discrepancies between the company's records and its inventory of prescription drugs; The maximum fine for these violations could be $29 million".

CVS prepared a statement saying they were working with the DEA as well as the other agencies to resolve the matter and put an end to prescription drugs being abused.

"We are cooperating with the DEA in their review of pharmacy records at a few of our pharmacies in California to determine the reasons for the discrepancies in our record keeping and to correct them," CVS spokesmen, Michael DeAngelis, said in a statement.

DeAngelis also said that "investigations are aimed at "assuring compliance with state and federal requirements for administrative record keeping related to invoices and inventory for controlled substances."

CVS made the full statement saying, "We are committed to working with the DEA, other regulatory and enforcement agencies, as well as key stakeholders in the medical community, to combat prescription drug abuse and diversion. We are cooperating with the DEA in their review of pharmacy records at a few of our pharmacies in California to determine the reasons for the discrepancies in our record keeping and to correct them. As health care providers, our pharmacists and technicians remain focused on ensuring prescription drugs are only delivered to the patients who need them.

CVS Caremark takes very seriously the challenge of combating prescription drug abuse and diversion, and we recognize the important role our pharmacists and technicians play on the front lines of solving this problem. As a company, we are investing significantly in internal controls and processes aimed at preventing prescription drug diversion from our pharmacies. For example, we are enhancing internal audit procedures to detect diversion, developing electronic controlled substance ordering and receiving systems, and implementing new storage and control measures for hydrocodone products beyond regulatory requirements across all of our 7,600 stores."

Another incident was documented in 2012 when an employee was caught stealing a bottle of Vicodin from the Rocklin store. That employee admittedly stole somewhere around 20,000 pills over the time period in which she was employed at CVS.

Investigations previously have proven that it is more common that one may think for a pharmacists to self medicate. Lower level pharmacy workers have been known to steal pharmaceuticals such as Hydrocodone to sell them on the street or for personal use. Irreguardless of how the pills came up missing, it is now the belief of the DEA that literally thousands of these pills have landed in the hands of drug dealers.