U.S. fines CVS for failing to report opioid theft in New York

FILE PHOTO: A logo of CVS Health is displayed on a monitor above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - CVS Health Corp agreed to pay a $1.5 million civil fine to resolve U.S. charges that some of its pharmacies in Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York failed to report in a timely manner the loss or theft of prescription drugs, including the opioid hydrocodone.

Richard Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, on Thursday said delays contribute to opioid abuse, and that CVS’ failures impeded the ability of Drug Enforcement Administration agents to investigate, violating federal law.

CVS, based in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“This settlement is significant because it shows that big chain pharmacies, like CVS, are taking responsibility for violating federal law, which is a step in the right direction for curbing the opioid epidemic,” DEA Special Agent-in-Charge James Hunt said in a statement.

Opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin, played a role in a record 42,249 U.S. deaths in 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CVS has more than 130 pharmacies in Nassau and Suffolk, according to its website.

The company reached a $5 million settlement with the U.S. government last July over similar claims involving pharmacies in California.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by David Gregorio