National pharmacy chain giant Walgreen Co. employs some quite catchy word play to create an upbeat imagery-laden buzz about the company. Walgreens is, allegedly, “at the corner of happy and healthy.”
Here’s the deal, though: The iconic company is also at the center of controversy, given recent media accounts focused upon what two whistleblowers — a Walgreens pharmacist and technician, respectively — contend was unlawful behavior sanctioned at the corporate level that defrauded American taxpayers of many millions of dollars.
Those individuals, who both worked at Walgreens pharmacies in California, filed qui tam whistleblower complaints under the federal False Claims Act alleging that the pharmacy chain submitted billing claims to Medi-Cal (the state’s formal health program working in conjunction with Medicare and Medicaid) that violated government reimbursement policies.
Most specifically, the claims contended, Walgreens failed to verify the medical necessity for certain so-called “Code 1” prescription drugs and document as mandated the diagnoses they were being prescribed for.
The pharmacist whistleblower stated in his complaint that Walgreens cajoled employees to “fill prescriptions as fast as possible.”
And the technician who filed a tandem fraud complaint three years later stated that company pharmacy employees “simply overrode the restrictions in the computer system to get the prescription paid for by Medi-Cal.”
Walgreens will now pay for its reported fraud-based behavior, with a settlement recently unsealed in federal court revealing that the company will reimburse taxpayers $9.9 million for its actions.
Reportedly, the two complainants will together receive approximately $2.3 million of that amount for the role they played as whistleblowers spotlighting the company’s wrongdoing.