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Rite Aid agrees to pay $177,000 to settle allegations of improper opioid dispensing

Rite Aid denied violating Massachusetts law and said it reached a settlement in the case to avoid “avoid the uncertainty and expense of litigation.”
Rite Aid denied violating Massachusetts law and said it reached a settlement in the case to avoid “avoid the uncertainty and expense of litigation.”(Paul Sancya/Associated Press/File 2009)

The Rite Aid drugstore chain has agreed to pay $177,000 and to follow state Medicaid rules on dispensing opioids and other drugs, in an agreement with Attorney General Maura Healey that was announced Wednesday.

Healey accused Rite Aid of accepting cash payments for controlled substances from Medicaid recipients “in a limited number of instances,” instead of billing the agency as required by regulations. In some cases, court documents state, Medicaid had denied a claim for a controlled substance on the same day as a Rite Aid pharmacist dispensed it for cash.

In the settlement agreement, filed in Suffolk Superior Court on Wednesday, Rite Aid denied violating any state law or regulation. The company currently has 10 stores in Massachusetts after selling many to Walgreens.

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The $177,000 payment will go into the Municipal Bulk Trust Fund, which allows Massachusetts municipalities to buy the overdose-reversing medication naloxone at a discount.

In 2016 and 2017, Healey reached similar agreements with CVS and Walgreens, which had also been accused of violating drug-dispensing rules.

“In our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, pharmacies are on the front lines,” Healey said in a statement. “Today’s settlement with Rite Aid will update their practices and provide more lifesaving doses of naloxone to first responders, helping keep this fund available for as long as it is needed.”

Asked for comment, Rite Aid spokesman Peter Strella reiterated that the drugstore chain denies violating Massachusetts law. “The parties reached a mutual settlement to avoid the uncertainty and expense of litigation without any admission of liability,” Strella wrote.

At issue is a rule by MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, which requires enrollees who use large quantities of prescribed drugs to obtain all their medications from a single pharmacy. That pharmacy is required to monitor the prescription drug use of each such member and use “sound professional judgment” in dispensing medications.

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Rite Aid agreed to a series of steps, including noting in each client’s file if their prescriptions require monitoring, requiring pharmacists to consult the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program before dispensing controlled substances, circulating written policies and procedures to its pharmacies, and training all pharmacy personnel in the Medicaid regulations.


Felice J. Freyer can be reached at felice.freyer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @felicejfreyer.