Thanks to an anonymous whistle-blower, a Walgreens pill-flipping scheme has been blown wide open, according to CBS. “Pill-flipping” refers the practice of pharmacies that purposefully switch Medicaid patients to more expensive versions of certain drugs for the sole reason of collecting more money from the government. Naturally, when this happens, taxpayers pick up the bill. Athough, Walgreen’s officially denies any wrongdoing they have agreed to pay the government more than $35 million. Details, inside…
CBS explains the scheme,
To save taxpayer dollars, Medicaid limits how much it pays for popular forms of drugs. But it doesn’t bother to set price-ceilings on rarely-used versions.
Take generic Zantac, or ranitidine, for example. The antacid is a huge seller in tablet form. Medicaid limits payment to 34 cents apiece.
The same drug as capsules has no price-ceiling because it was so rarely-prescribed. Medicaid pays $1.25 each. Walgreens figured it could pocket millions by switching patients from tablets to capsules.
The article also says,
By gaming the system, Walgreens managed to change over almost all Medicaid customers from cheap generic Zantac tablets to pricy capsules.
In Florida alone, it cost taxpayers an extra $1.2 million the first year.
And the pill-switching went on for several years nationwide, including other prescriptions: generic Prozac (fluoxetine) for depression, and generic Eldepryl (selegiline) for Parkinson’s.
Walgreens denies wrongdoing and declined to be interviewed. But they recently agreed to pay back the government more than $35 million.
And they’re not the only ones. CVS and Omnicare quietly settled similar cases coughing up $86 million more. The whole pill-flipping episode proves just how imperfect some drugstore chains can be.
Whether Walgreens’ pharmacists are secretly mocking you, or just being so incompetent that they prescribe a drug that causes a miscarriage, it seems they can do nothing right. Hopefully, this little multi-million dollar fiasco they’ve created will be a catalyst for change at the woeful pharmacy, but we won’t hold our breath.