Safeway to pay feds $3M after Wasilla pharmacy lost thousands of pain pills

The supermarket chain Safeway Inc. has agreed to pay $3 million dollars in a settlement that involves missing pain medication from a pharmacy in Wasilla.

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A settlement agreement signed Tuesday between Safeway and the Department of Justice said the Wasilla Carrs pharmacy was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration for failing to follow DEA protocols on reporting controlled substances like opioids when they go missing.

“We received a loss notification from Safeway in Wasilla regarding over 12,000 tablets of hydrocodone,” Seattle-based DEA agent Jodie Underwood said. “Our investigators reviewed the situation, it was determined they had not reported it in a timely manner.”

According to the settlement, the pills went missing in 2013 and were not reported to the DEA until 2014. The protocol is to report such a loss within one business day.

According to a statement from the DEA, the pills were stolen by employees.

The settlement documents say Safeway encouraged unlawful practices by directing pharmacists to report missing drugs only internally. It’s a practice the settlement describes in cases investigated at five different pharmacies, including the one in Wasilla.

“When there’s untimely reporting of a significant loss, it can thwart our investigative efforts. You know, we are in the middle of an opioid crisis,” Underwood said. “It is critical that all involved in the supply and distribution chain do their part.”

To settle the broader case, Safeway will have to pay the $3 million directly to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington within 20 days.