In a rare rebuke, Oklahoma regulators fined CVS Pharmacy $125,000 in 2020 after an investigation focusing on four different CVS pharmacy locations in the state. The fine cited pharmacy errors and inadequate staffing of these locations. This fine is a pittance for CVS, the 5th largest company in the U.S., which paid its CEO a combined total of over $36 million in 2019, to give you some perspective.
This story is one of many like it across the U.S. as pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have attempted to raise awareness of understaffing at major pharmacy chains and how it could be putting citizens at risk.
An audit process was undertaken, and board compliance officers showed up unannounced at one CVS pharmacy to observe. At this particular location, it was a chaotic scene of phones ringing, lines of customers waiting to talk to pharmacists or be administered flu shots, and a lack of staff to competently complete all the tasks needed. One investigator approached the pharmacist in the middle of the chaos, and they admitted that they had insufficient staff in place due to turnover, which they weren’t able to keep up with. The environment, just from observation, seemed to invite error.
Pharmacists who were interviewed admitted the combination of high expectations to meet company metrics and lack of adequate staff had them stressed out and concerned for the public’s safety. An audit revealed that as many as 22 percent of the 305 prescriptions filled had errors. Not all were errors that could cause harm to the patient, but certainly, it was evidence of a broader and very concerning problem.
The New York Times has reported that pharmacists across the country have complained to their state boards about their inability to keep up with the many tasks required of them. Most of the pharmacists work for the larger pharmacies of Walgreens and CVS. One example was of a technician needing to check over 190 prescriptions in just a six-hour period!
One CVS pharmacist shared with compliance officers that no overlapping of staff is allowed at the shift time change. He explained that to not leave pharmacists with an untenable situation at the shifts’ changing, pharmacists end up working unpaid for as much as 30 hours per week! They say they have no control over the staffing schedule and frequently have inadequate staff.
After the audit, the compliance board made numerous recommendations which included changes to how staffing needs were determined and additional training for technicians.
But the fact remains, buyers should beware when filling a prescription at one of these “big box” pharmacies. Ask questions. Get the counseling offered. Double-check that you are receiving the medication prescribed.
And if a provider in Texas has harmed you, look to the board-certified attorneys at Kennedy Law Firm who offer a free consultation on your case. Our office is always available for you at 713-425-6445.