Pharmacy groups in Australia are struggling to keep up with rising prescription drug prices, and Optum’s specialty pharmacy business in the city of Sydney is one of them.
The Australian Taxation Office is investigating the pharmacy chain’s Optums Specialty Pharmacy for allegedly running up to $5 million in unauthorized fees and charges, as well as the improper use of Optums own brand name brand name medicines.
The pharmacy chain is facing a $4.7 million civil penalty and an additional $1.8 million in legal costs from the Tax Office, which said Optums’ drug and pharmacy services were being diverted to its Optums Pharmacy Group subsidiary.
The AFP has launched a civil enforcement action against Optums for allegedly breaching Australia’s drug and drug-related consumer protection laws.
“The AFP is concerned that Optums has been abusing its monopoly on prescription drug sales to cover the cost of the fraudulent charges and charges it has allegedly collected,” a spokesperson for the AFP said.
“We are also concerned that the scope of the fraud, including the alleged fraudulent charges, may have been more than the Optums Group itself.”
The AFP said it was also investigating the alleged improper use by Optums of Optum Pharmacy brand name branded medicines, including a number of brand name medications for cancer and HIV, and other branded pharmaceuticals, including generic drugs and non-generic medicines.
In a statement, Optums said it “is fully cooperating with the Australian Tax Office in its investigations” and that it was working with the AFP and its regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
“Our commitment to our customers is unwavering,” Optums spokesman Andrew Macpherson said.
“We will continue to make the best available medicines to our patients, and we will provide the highest level of patient protection.
We are committed to working with our customers to resolve any outstanding issues and to ensure they are fully compliant.”
Optums Specialties brand name pharmaceuticals for cancer, HIV and diabetes can be bought on its Optum pharmacy network.
The ABC has reached out to Optums Optums Pharmaceuticals, Optum Optums and Optums Drug for comment.