For over a decade, Kim Thien Le marketed hundreds of thousands of medicines without a license, including many for extremely addictive opioids like oxycodone, prosecutors in California have spoken.
The unlicensed worker served at various Walgreens medicines in California, prosecutors announced.
Walgreens will spend $7.5 million to resolve allegations that for more than a decade it let an unlicensed pharmacologist handle hundreds of thousands of medicines, including some for highly addictive painkillers, the governments in California said on Monday, another setback for a company already facing broader accusations that it helped feed the opioid epidemic.
Beginning Of The Story
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, one of two San Francisco Bay Area agencies that sued Walgreens, said that the operator, Kim Thien Le, 44, marketed more than 745,000 prescriptions, including thousands for medications like oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, and codeine, from 2006 to 2017. She was never allowed by the state science board as required by law, the authorities announced.
“Purchasers depend on medicines to make sure that the person behind the counter making and communicating out pharmaceutical prescription medicines is trained, qualified and authorized to do so,” Tiyen Lin, a deputy district attorney in the customer protection unit at the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, said in a statement on Monday. “Their lives may depend on it.”
The authorities determined that Ms. Le did not have a license during a state pharmacy board audit in 2017. Ms. Le falsely impersonated Walgreens pharmacologists and accepted a grant of someone who had the same first name, the judges have said.
Mr. Lin told him he had seen no evidence that Ms. Le improperly administered opioids or other medicines. The action was filed, and the case was completed on Monday.
In a report on Tuesday, a spokesman for Walgreens told the company had not applied ms. Le since October 2017. As part of Monday’s agreement, Walgreens also allowed to institute a license-verification program and conduct annual audits, among other new oversight standards.
“Drugstore quality and security are top preferences, and upon hearing of this problem, we undertook a confirmation of the licenses of all our pharmacists nationwide,” the spokesman stated.
News of the agreement came as the business customs of chain pharmacies, including Walgreens, have frequently drawn public scrutiny.
Walgreens faces charges that it helped fuel the opioid crisis by flooding the country with billions of pills. And last week, The New York Times stated that pharmacologists at Walgreens, Rite Aid, and CVS announced that understaffed and chaotic workplaces made it challenging to perform their jobs carefully.
News of Ms. Le’s profession came to light in January 2019, when The San Jose Mercury News reported that the California State Board of Pharmacy was studying her duties at Walgreens stores in Fremont, Milpitas and San Jose, Calif. The board could not instantly be reached for on Tuesday.
In July, the California attorney officer charged Ms. Le with false personation, identification theft, and obtaining money, labor, or business by pretenses — all offenses. State prosecutors did not directly answer problems about the case.
Ms. Le has pleaded not guilty, and the case is pending, according to court records. Rabin Nabizadeh, a lawyer for Ms. Le, said she was not in charge. “We ask that your readers don’t jump to conclusions and let the process play out fairly and equitably,” Mr. Nabizadeh said.