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CSKT Pharmacy gets reduced civil penalty

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ST. IGNATIUS – Approximately 2,500 oxycodone pills were stolen or unaccounted for from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ Pharmacy in St. Ignatius resulting in an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration in March 2017 to March 2018.

During the DEA’s inspection of the pharmacy, significant violations of federal law and the DEA’s regulations were also found including a failure to “adequately track records of the controlled substances in the pharmacy” and a failure to report “missing oxycodone pills” to the DEA, according to a press release from the United States Department of Justice. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office reached an agreement with the pharmacy to settle the alleged pharmacy violations. U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme announced that the pharmacy would pay a $95,520 civil penalty and take steps to ensure future compliance that includes an annual evaluation for three years. The pharmacy must also certify to the DEA that it is meeting all regulatory requirements. 

“This settlement is an important step toward ensuring that opioids are properly controlled in the CSKT pharmacy,” Alme said. “For the safety of the community, we need to ensure that the pharmacy is managed responsibly in the future. The penalty puts every pharmacy in Montana on notice that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and DEA will vigorously enforce controlled substance regulations to prevent diversion of the prescription opioids that are harming our communities.”

If any future violations are found, the pharmacy “will be subject to a judgment for the full potential of $240,640 for the alleged violations,” according to the Department of Justice. 

During the year-long investigation, the Tribe worked closely with the DEA to help uncover the issue, according to Rob McDonald, CSKT communications director.“Once we learned the extent of the problem, Tribal Health administrators worked hard to address the system’s deficiencies,” McDonald said. “Our dedication to fixing this problem led to a decrease in the initial fines. CSKT’s Tribal Health Department is dedicated to serving our community’s needs and will continue to develop our systems to better protect our people.”

Stacy Zinn-Brittain, the DEA regional agent in charge of Montana, commended the Tribe for their compliance during the investigation. “We appreciate the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes taking this issue seriously,” Zinn-Brittain said. “It is our hope that this settlement and the Tribes’ plan to bring the pharmacy into compliance with the Code of Federal Regulations requirements will prevent future diversion of controlled substances.”

The DEA reports in a 2014 document that oxycodone is a narcotic widely used in clinical medicine for moderate to severe pain. The opioid is similar to morphine including its abuse and dependence liabilities. The effects of the drug include sedation, euphoria and feeling relaxed. 

In November, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council adopted a resolution in support of a Controlled Substance Utilization and Dispensing Limitation Policy for Tribal Health Department pharmacies in an effort to limit the number of opioids dispensed on the reservation. The policy takes effect on Jan. 1, 2019. The policy follows national guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control. 


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