A yearlong investigation conducted by New Jersey Attorney General Jeffery S. Chiesa's office found that five separate CVS pharmacies in three counties had mixed different medications in prescription bottles and filled dozens of incorrect prescriptions. A spokesman for the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA) confirmed that none of the medication errors caused real harm to a CVS customer. One person did go to the emergency room after realizing the medication mistake, but there were no ill effects.
The DCA launched an investigation following several complaints about a particular CVS branch, eventually discovering that 15 bottles of children's fluoride pills also contained Tamoxifen, a similar-looking pill used to treat breast cancer. A further internal investigation by CVS (who fully cooperated with the DCA) determined that incorrect prescriptions were being filled in four other New Jersey stores, which they reported to the DCA. According to investigators, the co-mingling of medications likely occurred when prescriptions weren't picked up and CVS employees put pills back into the wrong bottle on the shelf. Returning unused pills to bottles is a violation of CVS policy. Although CVS requires employees to inspect at least a portion of the prescription being dispensed, the medication errors went unnoticed.
CVS made the decision to avoid civil litigation brought by the state of New Jersey. The corporation, which has more than 270 stores in New Jersey, will pay $650,000, with part of that money going to fund a public education program about the proper use of prescription drugs. CVS has also committed to retrain the staff in all their pharmacies about safety procedures and violations and will require monthly quality assurance reviews.
Improperly filled prescriptions and medication errors can have serious and even devastating consequences. Customers put their trust in the pharmacist to correctly fill prescriptions. As this case shows, mistakes do happen. Patients should be aware of what medication they're receiving as well as what it looks like for their own health and safety.
Nj.com, "CVS agrees to pay $650,000 after giving customers wrong prescription pills" 2-25-13
northjersey.com, " CVS retrains its NJ pharmacists after discovering prescriptions were improperly filed" 2-26-13