Monday, October 18, 2010

CVS, An Everyday Miracle If You're Into Meth. Not So Much If You're Into Breathing.

It's a CVS twofer this day my friends. First we go to the Garden State, where the local FOX affiliate tells us the tale of a woman with asthma and her drugstore's commitment to her well being:

Just after seven o'clock Thursday morning, Katherine O'Connor and her boyfriend were walking home from a McDonald's in Garwood, New Jersey, when she suffered an asthma attack.
Her inhaler was at home. The couple was near there, but a CVS on North Avenue, near Cedar Street, was closer. They went in and found the pharmacist on duty.

Time for one of those CVS everyday miracles.

He was told the inhaler with tax would cost just over $21. He was short a dollar and change.
"I said 'Can you just give her the pump. She's on the floor wheezing," Jack said. "I didn't know if an ambulance would get there on time. He said there was nothing he could do for me."
CVS corporate offices sent Fox 5 a statement: "The well-being of our customers is our highest priority..."

"Right after money" they didn't add but believably could have "Every sweet sweet, last precious dollar...."

This being Fox news I can imagine the next line from the anchor desk being something like "Bob, what do you suppose is the connection between what happened here and the proposed Obamacare death panels?"

You could say this was just the case of one CVS pharmacist out of thousands using incredibly poor judgement, an isolated incident, and you would be right. Just like the one CVS Pharmacist who proposed a trade of Xanax for sex or the other CVS pharmacist who practiced at a CVS store without actually being a pharmacist.

Or the CVS pharmacist who posed a customers information on a Craig's list sex ad when the customer pissed him off.

Exactly how many isolated incidents have to occur before it's a pattern? Because I gotta tell ya, while Walgreens has almost the same number of stores and pharmacists, the bat-shit crazy ones always seem to be employed by CVS.

Our next story isn't about some random nutjob though. This one would be a failure at a higher organizational level:

The smurfers loved CVS. And CVS loved them back.
The giant drugstore chain became the go-to spot for hordes of shady buyers, called smurfers, who ran around scooping up over-the-counter decongestants under orders from bad guys who cook up methamphetamine.
Since 2005, federal law has limited how much pseudoephedrine a person can buy (no more than 3.6 grams a day). And retailers, like CVS, are supposed to police that by checking IDs and requiring people to sign for the stuff
But the chain switched from a paper logbook to an electronic system to keep track of things. The computerized ledger didn't prevent the same person from making a bunch of pseudoephedrine buys on the same day. And store employees, the feds say, were told to obey the computerized system's approval of sales, even if they had their doubts about the buyers.
Other retailers did a much better job on complying with the law, so the smurfers took their business to CVS, the feds say.
In a statement, CVS Chairman and CEO Thomas Ryan said, "We have resolved this issue, which unfortunately resulted from a breakdown in CVS/pharmacy's normally high management and oversight standards."

High management and oversight standards. The same standards that resulted in the company paying $36.7 million for ripping off Medicaid.

The same high standards that resulted in them "accidentally" charging people enrolled in CVS/Caremark's Medicare part D plans too much.

The same high standards that had two of their executives fighting off charges they tried to bribe a Rhode Island state senator. High standards would be avoiding even the appearance of impropriety. At least at most companies.

Again I'll ask, how many isolated incidents does it take before it's officially a pattern? Their "high standards" seem to be about as effective as the extensive pre-employment screening process they claimed to have when they got busted for hiring the fake pharmacist.

Who by the way, evidently had no problem practicing pharmacy the way CVS expects it to be practiced.

Something stinks here my friends. Something here totally smells like a rotten company.

Thanks to the alert readers who tipped me to the stories.


Anonymous said...

At my small county hospital somewhere in mid-America, we had a patient come in for respite care on a life-saving TID medication that cost literally thousands of dollars a vial, so there was no way we were going to get the drug from the wholesaler (who, by the way couldn't have gotten it from the manufacturer, anyway since the company that made the drug--only 200 miles away in the same state--had an 'exclusive' contract with supplying the drug through Caremark)--AND, the Caremark rep told the patient that the hospital COULD NOT use the supply the patient had already paid for while a patient in the hospital. So, now, Caremark was essentially telling the patient he had to buy a new supply of a tremendously expensive drug with a rather short half-life once the vial was opened, and this kind of decision was meant to stop the patient transferring from Mayo Clinic to our tiny hospital next to the patient's hometown. The whole thing had a stink of criminality--.
That thing that prevented MDs from running their own Rx shops in their basement not too many years ago.

Anonymous said...

Of all the pharmacy chains, I hate CVS the most. When a pharmacist got fired at walgreens here for making a false refill prescription for herself for a controlled substance cough syrup she was fired. She is one of the sketchiest and bitchiest pharmacists I had ever met and apparently thought she was above the rules. CVS hired her right away and I think she still works there 2 years later

Anonymous said...

Apparent, one indicator that a CEO is lying when opening his mouth is emphasizing
the positive

Tonina said...

I can't tell you how thrilled I am to have been coerced by my insurance company into using CVS and only CVS if I want to have my "maintenance medication" prescriptions filled by a human being I can (sometimes) see and (maybe) speak to if I have a medication-related question. My only other option is sending them through the mail to be mangled, lost, or incorrectly filled (each of which has in fact happened to me with our mail-in program).

So, I can support an amoral, corner-cutting chain that will do anything in pursuit of a buck (including contributing to the illegal drug trade) or play Prescription Roulette with the mail-in pharmacy. Awesome.

Anonymous said...

I worked as a Cpht for Walgreens for 26 years ( I know- I should be committed). And I can tell you that every single one of the pharmacists in my district that Wag's fired for either theft or abuse were hired by CVS. Every.Single. One.

There is no way I'd get a prescription filled at any of them- I'd be too worried what I'd get.

burned-out medic said...

note to self: don't go to cvs...

Anonymous said...

I have to agree on the WAG firing comment- most of the pharmacists fired from WAG eventually become employed by CVS in my area! And they have been firing alot lately it seems, most of those pharmacists being either crazy, socially inept, or just plain stupid & shouldn't be filling prescriptions anyway.

Mike said...

Gotta say, I hate that pseudoephedrine law. People are in misery because of their sinuses, and the safest, most effective medicine is hoarded away to protect some meth addicts who are going to find meth regardless. I feel like a criminal whenever I have to ask for old-school Sudafed.

Ironically, it's easier to buy ephedrine online than it is to buy pseudoephedrine from a pharmacy. So much for the war on drugs.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to read your POWER article. Less than a month and I will no longer be working for this evil corporation, sounds like CVS is even worse---or maybe their PR people aren't as good as WAG's...because believe WAG sucks!!

I am leaving because they aren't scheduling one of the full time pharmacists I work with because he waited til the last minute to become certified to be an immunizer. Even though the policy stated he had til Sept. 1st. and he was certified August 31st, he wasn't LICENSED in our state--so they didn't lay him off, they didn't fire him, they just stopped scheduling and didn't even have the courtesy to tell him!! He has a lawyer and I hope they get what they deserve. Funny thing--at a store not far from his home they had TWO new hires waiting to get licensed and still working....HMMMMM????

belovedparrot said...

Gosh, Drug Monkey, are you sure your standards aren't too high? I mean, expecting the right drug at the right dosage for the right person 100% of the time . . . . what harm could a few statistically unimportant errors be? (snort)

Anonymous said...

And I was speaking to a local psychiatrist several weeks ago when she told me that most of the dispensing problems her patients have encountered almost always seem to occur at a CVS. I thought about that for a second and told her that maybe it is because there are 2 Rite Aids, 2 Medicine Shoppes, 1 Wal-Mart, 1 Walgreens and FIFTEEN CVS's in our town, so simply based on probability.....well, you do the math.

Hey, I have worked for CVS for 26 years and will be the FIRST in line to toss the rotten eggs, but I can tell you that the caliber of people I have worked with, both Rph and Tech, has been extraordinary considering the circumstances. I too find many actions at the corporate level absolutely fucking maddening. And I also recognize that CVS's expansion has made it a large and easy target for both professional criticism and regulatory action. Don't forget that we are in one of the most heavily regulated industries/professions and on the front lines of a chaotic healthcare system under tremendous scrutiny.

No, I am not defending unprofessionalism, criminality, or the frank stupidity of those mentioned here. Every human endeavor is cast with it's share of bad actors. But before you sweep all CVS pharmacists into the same trash bag, know that for every CVS idiot you wish to spotlight, there are hundreds of hard working, caring pharmacists....JUST LIKE YOU....(and beleaguered just like you) working that bench. We came from the same pharmacy schools as you, with the same hopes and dreams.....and perhaps, the same disillusionments.

pillroller said...

hey they "just following orders" mein heir !

Em said...

wow. I was just about to take a prescription to cvs when I read this. Now I'm not sure I want to anymore... hmmm. I've never had a problem with my cvs but I'm not a fan of pharmacists watching patients have an asthma attack and not doing anything about it.
By the way, I've been a silent reader here for quite some time now and I never fail to be amused and horrified by your stories.

Anonymous said...

This is heartwarming and all, but how the hell did she go from wheezing on the floor to walking out? just askin'

Anonymous said...

Douches are not limited to CVS Pharmacy. Anybody can be a douche ;)

That being said...I am glad I don't work for CVS...

When I was job hunting about five years ago I was turned off by the "used car salesman" vibe I was getting from their recruiters.

Unchained Pharmacist said...

Assuming the report is accurate (i.e. the whole truth), then the RPh has a lot to answer for, even if he/she is not the one directly refusing the dispense.

In terms of dispensing meds without payment, every company I've worked for or know someone who had worked for has an exception for albuterol MDI (and NTG). I have yet to see a RPh got into trouble for violating company policy to do what's right by the patient.

Then again, I don't work for CVS, so I can't say what the culture is like.

Anonymous said...

Not only CVS/Pharmacy hires Walgreen drop outs but they fire the pharmacist who speaks up againt breaking the law and who is respected throughout the MN market,because she spoke out at the meeting and pointed out mis-guided policy, and Narc. abuser's complaints just because she could not get her fixes due to DUR, and patienty safty concerning overuse!
The RX Supervisor should be fired for obeying Igonorant DSM. That DSM should be fired for power starving DSM.

Anonymous said...

Firing of very competant pharmacist
is CVS's Loss and this will affect CVS/pharmacy morals!
She should apply to Walgreens we would love to have you!!!

yamiblue990 said...

sadly for many united patients it's the only option to have an actual face to face option nearby instead of solely mail order pharmacies.

Anonymous said...

Having worked at CVS for 6 years 4 of which I was a CPhT and ran the pharmacy- I know all the bad, good and in-between of the company. Honestly, I think the company Higher ups need to go into a year long training on how to treat their employees. The wall always said "we help people live longer, happier, healthier lives" - not so much- Unless you are a robot that can suck the d**** of the higher ups and ne'er make a mistake or speak your own mind - they love you. The second you start dueling on toes to make things easier, smoother and a better work environment for yourself and co workers - you may have to start looking for a new job. Which I did. They say they have competitive pay- hahaha- after 5 years working with them I decided I needed a better amount of money to do all the work, not even a hundred employees could do in a week(even a day) up to the expectations they wanted, I left and went to a much smaller company- and made almost $4 more an hour- with much easier expectations and honestly- a happier and healthier envoirment. All CVS cares about are numbers (percentages) and dollars- they do NOT care about customers, employees. CVS brainwashes their employees to make them think it is the best and only place to work- many people I worked with are still there- they won't leave because they don't think any place is better- thankfully I took that jump and left- and it was the best choice for my life, my health and my family's. The CVS I worked at had a pharmacist who was (still is- yet has left CVS for a different company) an opioid addict- can't tell you how many times shed give meds away to people without a prescription, shed break the federal/state laws- She would be high at work- CVS NEVER DID ANYTHING!!! Many times I'd work 10 hours and ne'er get a lunch because we didn't have anyone to cover me- short staffed, underpaid, overworked, unappreciated-- only two pharmacists out of over 20 I have worked with at CVS ever thanked me for my help during the day- Just my experience behind the scenes

CVS might as well be compared to the factory workers who got pennies a day- shut down CVS!!!!!