CVS Pharmacy fined nearly $700,000

Pharmacists failed to consult with patients on new or changed prescriptions

CVS Pharmacy, which operates 850 pharmacies in California, including two in Pleasanton, has been fined $658,500 for its pharmacists' failures to consult with patients on new or changed prescriptions as required by law.

The judgment, rendered in San Diego Superior Court, is a result of a joint action by the Board of Pharmacy, the San Diego County district attorney's Consumer Protection Unit and Riverside and Alameda County district attorney offices.

The civil complaint, filed under the state's unfair competition laws, alleged that CVS pharmacists throughout the state frequently failed to comply fully with state rules requiring personal pharmacist consultations when prescription drug patients receive new prescriptions or new dosages of existing prescriptions.

Stanley Weisser, Board of Pharmacy president, said the patient consultation rules are in place to ensure patients understand how to take their medications. He said consultation also serves as a double-check to ensure everything about the medication is correct for the patient.

Weisser said studies have found that 46% of patients misunderstand one or more instructions on prescription labels.

"It's important that patients understand the proper use of their medications," Weisser said.

"A pharmacist obtains four years of post-graduate, specialized education in pharmacy and is the last health care professional a patient typically sees before initiating drug therapy."

"A consultation helps minimize or avoid medication errors, screens for drug interactions and ensures better compliance with therapy," Weisser added.

A California's pharmacy law, enforced by the Board of Pharmacy, requires that a pharmacist must provide oral consultation on all new prescriptions not previously dispensed to a patient, as well as whenever the dosage, strength or written instructions change, or at anytime a customer requests an explanation.

The defendants in the suit were a CVS store in Garfield Beach and Longs Drugs Stores, California, also owned by CVS.

The district attorney offices in San Diego, Alameda and Riverside counties worked with the Board of Pharmacy in undercover investigations of the consultation practices of a number of major pharmacy chains in the state. The CVS enforcement action is just the first of several anticipated as a result of that investigation, according to Weisser.

He said the Board of Pharmacy provided the district attorneys with copies of 22 citations it had issued to CVS between March 2008 and September 2012 showing a continuing pattern of violations of the consultation requirement.

Then, undercover investigations by the district attorneys in 2011 and 2012 in San Diego, Riverside and Alameda counties found a number of instances where CVS pharmacies did not offer or provide the required consultations or improper personnel offered consultations.

CVS agreed to pay agency investigative costs of $97,500 and civil penalties totaling $561,000.

Out of the judgment, the three district attorney offices will each receive $19,166 for the cost of the investigation, plus $187,000 each in civil penalties. The Board of Pharmacy will receive $30,000 for investigation costs and the consumer Protection Prosecution Trust Fund will receive $10,000, according to California State Board of Pharmacy spokeswoman Joyia Emard.


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Posted by j
a resident of another community
on Feb 6, 2014 at 9:11 am

all I can say is count your medications...I used cvs, my perscripton was for 60mg, 3 times a day a total of 90 pills. they kept on giving me 60 pills, though I never counted them, so I couldn't figure out why I was low towards the end of the month. I now check all my medications and everyone should also.

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Posted by Jimmy Joe Bob
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2014 at 11:10 am

The state of pharmacies should be a real concern. They are understaffed, the level of service has declined, and an increasing number of pharmacists seem marginally trained and have marginal English-language skills. Mistakes are bound to happen, and sometimes those mistakes can have serious consequences.

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Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Feb 6, 2014 at 11:56 am

It's critical that pharmacy customers ask questions of a pharmacist. If the pharmacist has limited English speaking skills I suggest that you request a pharmacist who is fully English speaking to answer any questions that you may have.

If that's not possible then change pharmacies. Also consider filing a complain with a State of California regulatory board.

It's best to be safe than sorry.

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Posted by liberalism is a disease
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 6, 2014 at 3:09 pm

liberalism is a disease is a registered user.

RiteAid on the corner of Valley and Hopyard is great. The pharmacists are prompt, careful, friendly and knowledgable.

On a slightly different topic, did anyone else see the disconnect from people who applaud CVS for no longer selling cigarettes, but have no problem with legalized pot smoking? Both are addictive and unhealthful. Maybe it's just self serving since they like to get high from pot, but nicotine doesn't give them the same buzz? Bizarre.....

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Posted by Unions are antiAmerican
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Yeah, you're right again, lib. I've heard RiteAid's pharmacists, as well as their entire staff, are very competent and eager to serve their customers in a helpful, professional manner. However, I will not shop there because their labor force is unionized. I don't care how good the service is, I will not put a dime in a union member's pocket if I can avoid it.(Comment partially removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff as irrelevant to this thread.)

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Posted by liberalism is a disease
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 6, 2014 at 7:42 pm

liberalism is a disease is a registered user.

Try to stay on topic, mittens. I've heard that smoking pot daily will result in conditions like your inability to focus. Seek help from a (non-union) professional.

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Posted by Unions are AntiAmerican
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2014 at 8:34 am

Let me put it another way, editors. I'd much rather pay the same amount for 2/3 the drugs at CVS than patronize RiteAid, even if RiteAid's drugs and service is better. Because even if union supplied work is superior - and it usually is, but that's because their leadership holds threats over their heads - I'll avoid with every last ounce of life in me. Does anyone have any idea just how much damage unions have done to this country? It's unspeakable. I'd have a part-time job right now if it wasn't for a union worker taking my place as a full-time worker. What could be worse than that? RiteAid=good service (that's good), but its workers are unionized (that's bad).

I guess I should have written something more relevant, like on pot smokers, but this'll have to do. Oh, yeah, have you ever noticed how people who are in favor of legalizing pot are oftentimes not in favor of legalizing heroin derivatives? Go figure that one!

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Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Feb 7, 2014 at 10:09 am

Medical marijuana is quite helpful for some seniors living with chronic pain.

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Posted by Michael L.
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Feb 7, 2014 at 3:13 pm

This law seems to be a bit much. You can always ask for the consultation. There are a lot of people who could have the consultation and still not understand simple information and instructions. I've always been offered it at pharmacies that I've been to. In my experience these consultations are nothing more than telling you what's on the label, like how many to take and how often. The doctor has already told me why I'm getting the medication. If I want details I can search on medical websites for side effects and all of that.

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Posted by jb
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2014 at 7:03 am

Absolutely count your meds, I was shortened pain medications twice by CVS,i took back in and talked with manager, well it was hassle trying to get someone to believe you about a pain med, but the staff in pharm made a huge mistake the second time giving me a small bottle stating there was 120 in the bottle, no way 120 would fit. I did get correct amount of my medication and have never used that pharm since. Count your meds.

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Posted by regular Visitor
a resident of another community
on May 30, 2014 at 2:32 pm

I get my medications at Walgreens or in other pharmacy. I work and live by CVS Seventh and Market streets.

Most workers are Chinese in new CVS/pharmacy san Francisco ca. WHY??? Give all race a BREAK that can work there........

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