Retail giant CVS was recently fined for troubles in its Oklahoma pharmacies—including prescription drug errors.
Medications are invaluable in the practice of medicine. Drugs can also cause inadvertent side effects or serious complications, even when used correctly. When medications are prescribed, dispensed, or taken improperly, the outcomes can be more serious. While some drugs are inherently more dangerous than others, all medications have the potential to cause patient harm if provided to the wrong patient, given at a wrong dose, or altogether mislabeled.
In recent years, the spotlight has turned to the dispensing practices followed by some of the largest retail pharmacies in the country, including Walgreens and CVS. Caught up in legal actions brought as a result of the US opioid drug crises, CVS and Walgreens have pointed fingers at the prescribing practices of physicians.
Medication mistakes can happen anywhere along the supply chain. In 2019, the State of Oklahoma initiated investigations into CVS pharmacies as result of complaints made by the public. The investigations led to disciplinary action against CVS, the fifth-largest company in the US. The key points of the investigation include:
- At the Owasso CVS, the pharmacy filled a prescription for a boy that contained one-quarter of the anti-seizure medication he was prescribed. As a result, the young man suffered violent seizures that caused him to fall and injure his head.
- Investigation into the store found it had a 9.5 percent misfill rate and was understaffed.
- The Bartlesville CVS had a medication error rate of 21 percent, including mislabeled prescriptions and inadequate staffing.
- In Moore, the drug error rate was 6.3 percent, and callers could be placed on hold for up to an hour trying to fill a prescription. Drug errors at Moore included providing a one-year old child with the wrong antibiotic dose, and numerous mislabeling errors related to the frequency by which medications should be taken.
- At the Choctaw CVS, where the error rate was also about six percent, the pharmacy had a backlog of 99 prescriptions to be filled and 99 phone calls to return.
The chain agreed to pay a fine of $125,000, along with two years’ probation at the Owasso location—without admitting to any of the allegations uncovered in the regulatory investigation.
Despite the publicity, the size of the fine is no real impediment to CVS. The parents of the boy who suffered violent seizures spoke up saying, “We don’t care about a monetary benefit, we don’t care about what CVS has to be penalized to pay. They don’t even have to accept fault; they don’t have to change their practices … It just seems like nothing will change.”
If you or a family member suffers a serious adverse drug event, talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney with our firm.
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At Schochor, Staton, Goldberg, and Cardea, P.A., we serve individuals and families injured by medication error and medical malpractice. Contact us today or call 410-234-1000 to schedule a free consultation.