The Injured Workers Pharmacy (IWP) has agreed to an $11 million settlement over accusations it illegally dispensed opioids to injured workers.
IWP is a mail-order pharmacy which ships prescriptions mostly to workers who are injured on the job. The office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said the pharmacy shipped opioids in large doses for long periods of time, completed prescriptions which contained red flags and were written by prescribers who ended up being sanctioned for inappropriate prescribing, and filled prescriptions in dangerous combinations with other drugs.
Healey’s office also said IWP engaged in illegal marketing practices, including paying law firms in exchange for patient referrals. Healey’s office said a personal injury and worker’s compensation firm in Massachusetts was paid $4,000 per month for a link on the law firm’s website, and that IWP paid the firm over $90,000 for patient referrals between 2017 and 2019, generating over $1.2 million in revenue for IWP.
“Injured Workers Pharmacy created an illegal operation that put dispensing speed and volume over patient and public safety,” said Healey. “They dispensed thousands of prescriptions for dangerous drugs, including opioids like fentanyl, with a shocking lack of regard for whether those prescriptions were legitimate. Combating the opioid epidemic remains a top priority of my office and we will aggressively pursue those who break our laws to profit from this crisis.”
“IWP did not utilize its sales representatives to identify and report red flags about the doctors they were visiting; it did not train, require or incent its sales representatives to identify or report red flags regarding the prescribers they visited. Rather, it paid them largely on the basis of ’new patient ships’ — the ‘key driver of [IWP’s] continued financial success and growth’ – and it armed them with large expense accounts to woo referral sources,” Healey added.
“IWP did not stop dispensing their prescriptions until long after their suspicious prescribing behaviors were or should have been apparent to the pharmacy staff filling them and sales staff visiting their offices,” Healey’s office wrote in a complaint.
IWP said it did not admit to any of the findings in the settlement. The company said it “regrets” an incentive program which Healey said let prescribers bypass necessary checkpoints, calling the program “imperfect.”
DEA data publicly released in July 2019 showed that IWP received tens of millions of pain pills from 2006 to 2014. This was more than three times the amount of any other pharmacy in Massachusetts.