Harvard Pays Big Time to Settle Pharmacy Claim

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Harvard University agreed to pay $775,000 to settle federal charges of lax security and record-keeping that led to drug thefts at the campus pharmacy serving students, faculty, and staff.

The settlement of civil claims against Harvard for violations under the federal Controlled Substance Act was announced earlier this month by Donald K. Stern, U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts.

Several years of lax oversight caused Harvard to fall short of the legal requirements designed to reduce drug diversion, Stern charged. "The upshot was thefts of drugs, inaccurate inventories, sloppy storage, and improper distribution of drugs to unregistered sites," he said. "We are gratified that Harvard has now recognized these problems, accepted responsibility for them, and taken significant steps to bring the pharmacy into compliance with federal law."

The case began when Harvard officials notified the Drug Enforcement Administration of suspected drug thefts last November. The school cooperated with an investigation by the DEA, the state police, and the pharmacy board, which led to the conviction of a technician in state court. The U.S. Attorney's office contended that the tech had been given improper access to the pharmacy computer and could alter Rx information to falsify refills. The technician had stolen more than 7,500 doses of cough syrup containing codeine during the spring and summer of 1995. The diversion led to a fourfold increase in the pharmacy's orders for the cough syrup.

Harvard, which could have been fined $25,000 per violation if it had lost in court, entered the settlement without admitting to the allegations. The Cambridge, Mass. …