The next time someone complains to me about the pseudoephedrine sales restrictions they must go through to buy the cough and cold product of their choice I will bring up this story as an example of how serious the government is about the sale of pseudoephedrine (PSE). It appears according to a story I just found on Yahoo that CVS has been fined $75 million by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for illegal sales of PSE to criminals that in turn used the medication to make methamphetamine.
The Yahoo article sites that the illegal PSE sales occurred in southern California and resulted in an increase in the methamphetamine problem for that area’s law enforcement agencies. Not only did CVS receive “the biggest ever civil penalty under the Controlled Substance Act” according to Yahoo but apparently CVS also has agreed to pay back some $2.6 million in profits resulting from the PSE sales. And if CVS made that much profit on those illegal sales we are talking about a large amount of PSE which means those illegal sales contributed to a large amount of illegal methamphetamine production. And to me that is a disgrace!
What bothers me most about the Yahoo article is the accusation that CVS only changed it’s PSE sales procedure only after becoming aware that the company was under investigation by the government. It is as if CVS would have continued to illegally sell a product that is a known ingredient for illegal drug production had it not come under investigation by the DEA. To me this is nothing short of a disgrace on the part of CVS management but honestly I don’t know why I am even surprised by the story. After all, CVS has shown time and time again that they don’t want to play by the rules that everyone else is bound to follow.
For a large chain to knowingly sell PSE to criminals that will inevitably turn the product into illegal drugs that will be sold on the street is just the utmost definition of irresponsible and reckless behavior on the part of CVS. I personally am glad that the DEA came down on them this severely and they did so the only way to really hurt a company such as CVS: financially. Forget moral or ethical responsibility because CVS said bye bye to those concepts a long time ago. The only way to effectively send a message to a company like CVS is to issue a meaningful fine to send them the message that just selling PSE haphazardly is not an option. And that is exactly what the DEA has done with it’s $75 million dollar fine.
Now some of you might say that even $75 million isn’t enough but I think when you are talking about that kind of large sum of money you have to agree that it will sting even a company the size of CVS. The message hopefully will be received by the management at CVS. I think that organization needs a major reorganization with several executives being removed. CVS is an embarrassment for the entire pharmacy distribution industry and these kinds of actions brings down the entire profession and goes against what most everyone in the industry believes in: to do everything in our power to PREVENT the production and distribution of illegal drugs.
So if anyone out there works for CVS feel free to print this post and fax it or e-mail it to your corporate headquarters. And be sure to highlight the following: CVS is an embarrassment to the chain drug store industry. They have proven time and time again that they put greed and profits over ethics and moral responsibilities. And I for one am glad the DEA has come down hard on them. It was a long time overdue in my opinion. And if you think I am being too harsh towards CVS feel free to leave a comment defending them but you’d better have some facts to back up your claims because there are several examples I can think of where CVS has been plain wrong.
This is just another example of why I can never work for CVS and why some chains just think they can do whatever they want in the name of profits. I hope that every pharmacist that works for CVS really gives their corporate leaders an earful regarding their behavior. They definitely deserve it. And kudos to the DEA for conducting their investigation and handing down such a large fine as punishment. And if that doesn’t work the next time this sort of thing happens try for $100 million fine or maybe $150 million. Just keep raising the penalty until companies like CVS finally get the message that they have to play by the rules too. Maybe they will eventually get the message. Who knows?
The Redheaded Pharmacist