Health Care

Walgreens to pay millions to settle two cases of overcharging for prescription drugs

A Walgreens on Coral Way in 2015.
A Walgreens on Coral Way in 2015. El Nuevo Herald File Photo

Walgreens has agreed to pay $60 million to settle allegations that it “knowingly overcharged government healthcare plans such as Medicaid for prescription drugs,” said Stein Mitchell Beato & Missner, the Washington-based law firm that launched the whistleblower lawsuit against the pharmacy giant in 2012.

According to the decision delivered last week by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the pharmacy giant “resolved allegations that the company defrauded the U.S. government and 39 states” — including Florida — “by submitting false and inflated prices for prescription drugs to increase its government reimbursements.”

This is in addition to a $209 million lawsuit Walgreens Boots Alliance agreed to settle in another concurrent whistleblower suit concerning the overcharging for drugs.

The $60 million suit was brought by whistleblower Marc D. Baker, who worked as a pharmacy manager at a Florida Walgreens for a decade. He joined with the Washington law firm to pursue the litigation.

“This unprecedented case exemplifies the importance of whistleblowers in the public-private partnership to prevent government fraud,” said Andrew M. Beato, chair of Stein Mitchell Beato & Missner LLP’s Whistleblower Practice Group. “It illustrates the power of one individual to expose and stop fraud against the government — and, ultimately, U.S. taxpayers who foot the bill.”

Walgreen’s said it “’admits, acknowledges, and accepts responsibility’ for conduct alleged by the federal government, according to the settlement agreements,” Reuters reported.

The $60 million is in addition to a $209.2 million settlement on Jan. 22 in which Walgreens was accused of improperly billing Medicare, Medicaid and other federal programs from 2006 to 2017 for insulin pens Walgreens sold to patients that did not always adhere to the dosages prescribed by their physicians.

That whistleblower suit alleged that Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries “routinely received more insulin than prescribed, and Walgreens billed Medicaid for the additional doses,” according to Pharmacy Times.

But in a separate statement, the Illinois-based pharmacy chain said it did not admit to “wrongdoing,” and that agreeing to the settlements were in the best interests of customers, patients and other stakeholders.

Walgreens’ statement: “Walgreens is a company of pharmacists living and working in the communities we serve, and we have always taken the safety and reliability of the medicines our patients need very seriously. We are resolving these matters because we believe it is in the best interest of our customers, patients and other stakeholders to move forward.”

According to Reuters, Walgreens said it set aside enough money to pay off the $269.2 million settlements in November 2018.

Walgreens has more than 9,500 stores in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In Florida, as of August 2018, Walgreens lists 820 stores in the state.

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Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.


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