DOJ: Safeway to pay $3M over lax controls at pharmacies

SEATTLE (AP) — The U.S. Department of Justice says the Safeway grocery store chain has agreed to pay $3 million to settle allegations of lax controls at its pharmacies.

The settlement, announced Tuesday, closes an investigation that began with Safeway stores in North Bend, Washington, and Wasilla, Alaska, in April 2014. For months, the stores had failed to notify the Drug Enforcement Administration that employees had stolen tens of thousands of hydrocodone tablets.

Investigators eventually reviewed practices at all Safeway pharmacies from 2009 to 2014, and they found that Safeway pharmacies frequently failed to report drug thefts in a timely manner.

Seattle U.S. Attorney Annette Hayes says pharmacies have a key role in ensuring that only those with legitimate prescriptions obtain the powerful and addictive narcotics.

Safeway, based in Pleasanton, California, operates more than 1,300 stores in 19 states.