The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has reportedly launched an investigation into CVS’ practice for refilling prescriptions. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, authorities are looking into reports that CVS has been refilling prescriptions and submitting insurance claims without patients’ permission. The Los Angeles Times article, released October 12, 2012, names an official with knowledge of this matter as the source.
We want to emphasize that this is from an unconfirmed news story. The government rarely announces investigations of specific subjects ahead of time.
CVS Has Not Been Contacted By the Government About an Investigation.
A related article in Reuters states that CVS said it has not been contacted by the government about the investigation. The pharmacy also said, as a policy, the company does not condone unauthorized refills. Officials said to allow unauthorized prescription refills could be considered insurance fraud, especially if insurers were not refunded for any drugs rejected by patients.
The probe might be, in part, related to the programs offered by many drugstores that allows a pharmacy to refill prescriptions even before a refill request has been made by the patient.
So far there is no news from the OIG for the HHS officially confirming this investigation.
Cause for Investigation?
It is unclear to me why there would be any cause to investigate CVS, if Medicare was not being billed until the customer actually picked up the prescription. If the customer fails to pickup the prescription, every drug store I know of restocks the medication after a short period and no one is ever billed for it. It seems that it would be a quick and simple matter for the OIG to check this.
Furthermore, it could also be argued that CVS is actually promoting good health by this practice. Patients may forget to renew or refill their prescriptions or may fail to notice they are running low.
Two Sanford, Fla., CVS Stores Make Headlines.
On September 12, 2012, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) revoked the registrations (controlled substance licenses) from two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida. The two pharmacies are no longer able to fill prescriptions for drugs such as oxycodone, Dilaudid, Vicodin, Ritalin and Xanax. This decision was in response to a government crackdown on the distribution of painkillers. Click here to read a blog on this story.
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What do you think of this story? Do you think CVS is doing anything wrong? How is this any different from the practice of many managed care plans mailing out 90 days of medications to its patients at a time? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
Lazarus, David. “CVS Caremark Prescription Refills Under Scrutiny, Source Says.” Los Angeles Times. (October 12, 2012). From: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lazarus-20121012,0,1032269.column
Alawadhi, Neha, Wohl, Jessica, and Morgan, David. “CVS Unaware of Any Government Prescription Refill Probe.” Reuters. (October 12, 2012). From: http://www.reuters.com/assets/print?aid=USBRE89B19520121012
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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