The Walgreens pharmacy chain has agreed to pay $7.5 million to settle a case in which an employee succeeded in impersonating a pharmacist for 11 years and illegally wrote prescriptions for patients in Alameda and Santa Clara counties.
Milpitas woman Kim Thien Le was criminally charged by the California Attorney General's Office last summer for impersonating two licensed pharmacists with similar names who have valid licenses with the state. According to state prosecutors, Le signed off on a total of 745,355 prescriptions including 100,701 for controlled substances — many of these done electronically and spread across 395 different Walgreens pharmacies. As KPIX reported last January, when she was questioned by the state Board of Pharmacy about the fact that she never officially graduated with a pharmacy degree, Le said, "Me and my son would be very grateful if you could just forget about this."
Among the 100,701 prescriptions Le wrote for controlled substances were many opioids including fentanyl and morphine.
Le has pleaded not guilty to felony impersonation charges and her case is still pending, but the district attorneys of Alameda and Santa Clara counties filed civil consumer protection charges against Walgreens last year, saying that it was the pharmacy giant's responsibility to conduct proper background checks of its pharmacy staff. The company was accused of promoting Le from her role as pharmacy technician without verifying her pharmacist license.
Now, as KPIX reports, Walgreens has agreed to settle the case, which focused on the three pharmacy locations where Le was employed between 2006 and 2017, in Fremont, Milpitas, and San Jose. The $7.5 million settlement includes penalties, costs and remedial payments.
Walgreens also issued a statement to go with the settlement saying, "Pharmacy quality and safety are top priorities, and upon learning of this issue, we undertook a re-verification of the licenses of all our pharmacists nationwide."