Prosecutors in San Diego and other California counties secured a $502,200 settlement in a consumer protection lawsuit filed in July 2015 claiming Walgreens pharmacists throughout California often did not follow patient consultation rules. Some of the settlement proceeds are for investigative costs and penalties.
“Pharmacist consultations prevent drug errors and ensure that patients have the right prescription for their condition,” according to San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. The San Diego office worked with the Riverside and Alameda district attorney’s offices and the state Board of Pharmacy to obtain the settlement. An undercover investigation was conducted of the consultation practices of major California pharmacies chains.
In 2011, the California State Board of Pharmacy brought to the attention of three district attorney’s offices the consumer health risks when pharmacists do not provide consultations. Regulations enforced by the state Board of Pharmacy requires a pharmacist provide a personal consultation to a patient receiving a prescription drug not dispensed to a patient before. Consultations are also needed when a patient is prescribed a drug in a different dosage, form or strength. Uninformed or wrongful use of prescription drugs hurts an estimated 150,000 Californians each year.
The Walgreen’s enforcement action is the third of several such actions against pharmacies chains. Two other actions include a December 2013 injunction and $658,500 judgment against CVS pharmacies and a June 2014 injunction and $498,250 judgment against Rite Aid.
Walgreens entered into a judgment without admitting liability. The judgment requires Walgreens to be subject to an injunction requiring full compliance with California standards for proper patient consultations. Walgreens needs to implement an internal compliance program.
Walgreens, with a main office in Deerfield, Illinois, operates and owns 620 Walgreens pharmacies in California. At the same time the settlement was announced, Forbes reported Walgreens was opening new clinics owned and staffed by hospital partners. The retail clinics move beyond providing prescriptions in pharmacies towards healthcare.
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