SAN DIEGO–The Consumer Protection Unit, working with the Riverside and Alameda District Attorneys’ Office and the State Board of Pharmacy, has obtained a $658,500 settlement in a consumer protection lawsuit brought against the owners of the CVS pharmacy chain in California.
The civil complaint, filed in San Diego Superior Court under California’s unfair competition laws, alleges that CVS pharmacists throughout the state frequently failed to comply fully with the state Board of Pharmacy’s rules requiring personal pharmacist consultations when prescription drug customers receive new prescriptions or new dosages of existing prescriptions.
“Pharmacist consultations prevent drug errors and ensure that patients have the correct prescription for their condition,” District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said. “Without these checks and balances, patient health can be put at serious risk.”
Garfield Beach CVS, LLC, and Longs Drugs Stores, California, LLC, are California limited liability companies owned by parent company CVS Pharmacy, Inc., of Woonsocket, Rhode Island. These CVS defendants own and operate the 850 CVS-branded pharmacies in California.
In 2011, the California State Board of Pharmacy brought to the three District Attorneys’ Offices the problem of health risks to California pharmacy customers when pharmacists fail to properly provide needed personal consultation to prescription drug customers. Uninformed or improper use of prescription drugs harms an estimated 150,000 Californians each year and contributes to an estimated $1.7 billion in economic losses throughout the state.
Regulations enforced by the California State Board of Pharmacy require that a pharmacist must provide personal consultation to a patient receiving a prescription drug not previously dispensed to that patient, or a prescription drug in a different dosage, form, or strength, or on the patient’s request.
Working with the Board of Pharmacy, the three District Attorneys’ Offices conducted an undercover investigation of the consultation practices of a number of the major pharmacy chains in California. Today’s enforcement action is the first of several anticipated as a result of the investigation.
The Board of Pharmacy provided the District Attorneys copies of 22 citations issued to CVS by the Board between March 2008 and September 2012 showing a continuing pattern of violations of the consultation requirement. Subsequently, undercover investigations by the District Attorneys in 2011 and 2012 in San Diego, Riverside, and Alameda, found a number of instances where CVS pharmacies offered consultations by improper personnel and other instances where the pharmacies did not offer or provide the required consultations at all.
Under the terms of the judgment, which was entered without admission of liability, CVS is permanently enjoined to comply properly with California’s standards for patient consultations, and must fully implement an internal compliance program that CVS had begun before it learned of the prosecutors’ 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. (San Diego DA will receive one-third, or $187,000, of those civil penalties and $19,166 of the costs.) CVS worked cooperatively with the prosecutors to promptly resolve the matter and to implement the new compliance procedures.
The stipulated final judgment in this case was signed by San Diego Superior Court Judge Lisa Schall.