More than 16,000 hydrocodone pills have been reported as “lost” by a CVS pharmacy in Turlock, according to a search warrant filed by Drug Enforcement Administration officials.
The CVS, located at 1621 Lander Ave., notified the DEA of the lost pills on Nov. 9, 2012. The type of loss was listed as “unknown.”
Following the loss, DEA Diversion Investigators from the Sacramento office served an administrative inspection warrant at the Turlock pharmacy in May, 2013, DEA special agent and spokesperson Casey Rettig confirmed.
“Due to the ongoing investigation I am unable to provide further comment,” Rettig said.
Per the search warrant, the DEA believed it would find numerous records-keeping violations, leading to the “loss” of pills.
Each tablet of hydrocodone, commonly known under the trade names Vicodin, Norco, Lortab, and Lorcet, has a street value of approximately $10. Hydrocodone is an opiate which is commonly abused.
The missing pills are among 37,000 hydrocodone pills lost from five Northern California CVS pharmacies, per warrants. Roughly 5,000 tablets went missing from a Modesto store, on Oakdale Road, while 11,000 disappeared from a Fairfield store and a further 5,000 from a Dixon store.
The missing pills came to light after a CVS pharmacy in Rocklin reported a loss of 20,455 tablets of hydrocodone on Dec. 26, 2012. A CVS loss prevention staff member witnessed pharmacy technician Krystina Johnsrud conceal a bottle of hydrocodone in her pants on Feb. 18, 2013, according to a warrant; she later admitted to stealing all 20,000 hydrocodone tablets and was arrested.
Following a DEA investigation, 583 record keeping violations were uncovered at that Rocklin CVS pharmacy.
The DEA then realized that “numerous CVS pharmacies” in Northern California had reported lost hydrocodone tablets. The cause of loss was reported as “unknown.”
Rettig confirmed that inspection warrants were served in May 2013 at the Modesto, Dixon, and Fairfield stores as well.
CVS spokesperson Mike DeAngelis would not confirm the numbers, or that the Turlock CVS is among those being investigated. But DeAngelis acknowledged that the company is working with the DEA in an investigation of California pharmacies.
“We are cooperating with the DEA in their review of pharmacy records at a few of our pharmacies in California to determine the reasons for the discrepancies in our record keeping and to correct them,” DeAngelis said. “As health care providers, our pharmacists and technicians remain focused on ensuring prescription drugs are only delivered to the patients who need them.”
DeAngelis also noted that CVS is implementing new internal controls and processes to prevent prescription drug losses. Enhanced internal audits, electronically-controlled ordering and receiving systems, and new storage and control measures are coming to all 7,600 CVS stores, he said.