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At Chain Pharmacies, Working Conditions May Threaten Patient Safety

Wagner Reese

Struggling to fill hundreds of prescriptions per day while juggling client consultations, calls with insurance companies, and other “busy work” tasks, chain store pharmacists are now sounding the alarm about unsafe working conditions, according to a groundbreaking report published in the New York Times. State regulators say that they’ve received countless letters and complaints from pharmacists, all of whom are gravely concerned about patient safety and the increasing risk of medication error.

Although the complaints vary, there is a clear pattern behind the chorus: Most of the pharmacists note that there is intense pressure to meet corporate goals and perform internal tracking tasks, especially at CVS. In one haunting example, an anonymous pharmacist claimed that “I am a danger to the public working for CVS.” Another in South Carolina said that “We are being asked to do things that we know at a gut level are dangerous. If we can’t or won’t do them, our employers will find someone else who will, and they will likely try to pay them less for the same work.”

Placing Profits Above Patients: Inside the Pharmaceutical Chains

Drugstore chains fill at least 70% of all prescriptions in the United States annually – and many of the largest chains are also counted among the nation’s top 100 companies. Although most states have regulatory boards governing the pharmaceutical industry, retail chains like CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart have often proved too large to regulate, as company representatives are allowed to serve as state regulatory board members.

This widespread lack of oversight has already led to real-world repercussions: On February 4, 2020, Walgreens settled a $7.5 million consumer protection lawsuit for employing a woman who was not licensed by the Board of Pharmacy. During her decade-long tenure at Walgreens, Kim Thien Le assisted with filling over 745,000 prescriptions, many of which were controlled substances. While the company has since taken steps to enforce greater compliance, this unacceptable failure to screen a new hire could have potentially harmed thousands of patients.

According to survey responses taken from over 1,000 Missouri pharmacists, as many as 60% of pharmacists feel pressured to place internal corporate metrics above patient safety. Because CVS, Walgreens, and other major chains benefit financially when patients buy larger quantities of medication, pharmacists must persuade patients to opt for automatic refills and 90-day supplies – even when doctors recommend against it. As President of the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. Bruce Schwartz shared with the Times that this practice may indirectly lead to more patient suicide attempts through overdose.

Holding Pharmaceutical Chains Accountable

It’s difficult to track medication errors, due to a lack of consistent reporting standards within the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. However, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that it already receives 100,000 medication error reports each year. If the working conditions at large-scale pharmacy chains do not change, that number could dramatically increase, leading to more life-threatening injuries, hospitalizations, and even deaths.

Our attorneys at Wagner Reese are committed to helping victims of medication error seek compensation. With over 150 years of collective experience and millions won on behalf of injury victims, our team can serve as your legal advocate if you were prescribed the wrong medication. Using our considerable knowledge and resources, we can help a judge or jury understand exactly how corporate negligence contributed to your injuries – and we’ll pursue the fair and full recovery you deserve.

Call (888) 204-8440 to schedule your free consultation with Wagner Reese today.

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