While this is not a new case, nevertheless it must be revisited to remind the importance of verifying all licensure, credentials, and records of pharmacy employees. This straightforward and easy step could potentially save pharmacies millions of dollars, as this case and many enforcement actions illustrate.

Earlier this year, Walgreens agreed to pay $7.5 million to resolve a lawsuit contending that the company allowed an unlicensed employee to handle over 745,000 prescriptions.

For over 15 years, Walgreens employed a pharmacist who handled more than 100,000 prescriptions for controlled substances such as oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine and codeine.

This “pharmacist,” who was never licensed, used the license of someone else with the same first name to obtain promotions, according to a consumer protection lawsuit filed by the Santa Clara County and Alameda County district attorney’s offices. (How was it possible for a non-pharmacist to fill and consult patients on prescription medications?)

The unlicensed practice was discovered by the Board of Pharmacy during a routine audit. The “pharmacist” has been criminally charged by the State Attorney General with criminal identity theft, false personation, and false pretenses.

Walgreens has agreed to pay a hefty monetary penalty for its failure to verify licensure. The final judgment requires Walgreens to ensure licensure compliance by implementing a verification program, posting proof of licensure, conducting annual audits, and submitting an annual compliance report.

In addition to criminal investigations, a pharmacy may face recoupments and other penalties if it fails to verify licensure of its employees and contractors. Pharmacy should also verify that all its employees, contractors, and agents are not listed on the OIG’s List of Excluded Individual/Entities (LEIE) or the DHCS’s exclusion database. For certain protections against negligent hiring, the Pharmacy shall also perform education and employment verification, a Social Security number validation, and an appropriate criminal records history check.

Need a policy for verifying licensure and exclusion databases? Click here to access RxPolicy to download a policy and procedure.