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February 11, 2014 > CVS Pharmacy fined nearly $700,000

CVS Pharmacy fined nearly $700,000

Submitted By Joyia Emard

The California State Board of Pharmacy announced that CVS Pharmacy, which also owns Longs Drug Stores and operates 850 pharmacies in California, was recently fined $658,500 for its pharmacistsÕ failure 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, San Diego County District Attorney Consumer Protection Unit and Riverside and Alameda County District Attorney offices.

The civil complaint, filed under the stateÕs unfair competition laws, alleges 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 optimally 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 percent of patients misunderstand one or more instructions on prescription labels.

ÒItÕs important that patients understand the proper use of their medications. 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,Ó Weisser said.

CaliforniaÕs Pharmacy Law regulation 1707.2, enforced by the Board of Pharmacy, requires that a pharmacist must provide oral consultation on all new prescriptions not previously dispensed to a patient; whenever the dosage, strength or written instructions change; or upon request.

Defendants Garfield Beach CVS, LLC, and Longs Drugs Stores, California, LLC, are California limited liability companies owned by parent company CVS Pharmacy, Inc., of Woonsocket, R.I.

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 the major pharmacy chains in the state. The CVS enforcement action is just the first of several anticipated as a result of that investigation.

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.

Under the terms of the judgment, which was entered without admission of liability, CVS is permanently enjoined to comply properly with CaliforniaÕs standards for patient consultations, and must fully implement an internal compliance program that CVS had begun before it learned of the prosecutorsÕ concerns.

In the stipulated final judgment, the CVS entities also 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.

The stipulated final judgment was signed by San Diego Superior Court Judge Lisa Schall on Dec. 12, 2013.

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