By Matt Stout
CVS Pharmacy will begin tipping Attorney General Maura Healey to doctors and other prescribers it suspects of over-prescribing powerful opiates and painkillers to patients, according to a settlement her office inked with the national pharmacy chain.
The agreement -- in which CVS also promised to pay $795,000 and require its pharmacists to check the state's online prescription monitoring program, or PMP -- was hailed by Healey's office as a first-of-its-kind settlement, and follows an investigation in which prosecutors say CVS pharmacists committed approximately 150 violations over a six-year period.
Chief among them: CVS pharmacists were accepting out-of-pocket payments for controlled substances from state Medicaid patients, even after MassHealth had flagged and denied the prescription -- a violation of state law, according to prosecutors.
But the settlement may also create a new avenue for Healey to track misbehaving docs. Tucked inside the settlement is a provision calling for CVS, upon a request from Healey's office, to provide the names and medical license numbers of all Bay State prescribers "whose controlled substance prescriptions CVS will not fill at any CVS locations."
A Healey spokeswoman said the list is intended to identify those doctors whose prescriptions CVS won't accept because they're suspected of over-prescribing or have been flagged for filing an odd combination of prescription pills.
"It's a tool for us," spokeswoman Cyndi Roy Gonzalez said, adding that it's the first type of deal the office has with any pharmacy chain.
With 350 Massachusetts stores, CVS is the largest pharmacy in the state. Healey touted the new requirement of its pharmacists checking the PMP before each prescription as a "big deal" and said it will add another layer beyond a new state law that requires doctors to do the same before writing a prescription for certain opioids.
"For far too long we've allowed prescription drugs to be prescribed in reckless amounts, to be dispensed in reckless amounts," Healey said. "... Pharmacists are already on the frontlines. They are professionals. Today we are empowering them with more tools."
In a statement, CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis said the chain is "committed to the highest standards of ethics and business practices."
The state last week launched a new version of its online PMP. As of yesterday, 79 percent of the state's prescribers had signed up, according to Monica Bharel, the state's public health commissioner.
(c)2016 the Boston Herald