Walgreens made history yesterday ... by being ordered to pay the largest fine in the history of the US Controlled Substances Act. The drugstore empire was slugged for $80 million for "an unprecedented number" of violations in its sale of oxycodone and other controlled substances, following a probe by the DEA, USA Today reports. The agency says Walgreens allowed the highly addictive painkillers to reach the black market by systematically failing to report unusually large or frequent orders from its pharmacies, and dispensing to customers even when their prescription was flagged as problematic.
"Walgreens pharmacists blatantly ignored red flags," says a DEA special agent. Six of Walgreens' Florida pharmacies were ordering more than a million oxycodone pills a year, the DEA found. One pharmacy in a town of 34,000 people ordered 2.2 million pills in 2011; the average US pharmacy orders 73,000 a year. Those pharmacies have had their controlled substance licenses suspended until May 2014 and the company has been barred from distributing controlled drugs from its Florida warehouse—the largest supplier of oxycodone to pharmacies in the state—until September 2014.