An executive of Walgreen Co. abused his position as the Indiana Board of Pharmacy (IBOP) President to help gain approval for a controversial Walgreens pharmacy model called “Well Experience,” an ethics complaint filed today alleges.
Change to Win (CtW) Retail Initiatives and Common Cause Indiana filed the complaint with the Office of the Inspector General. The watchdog groups charge that Ethics Code violations by Walgreens Manager of Pharmacy Affairs Bill Cover and pharmacy board staff corrupted the regulatory process and led to the board approving a pharmacy format that creates risks to public health and patient privacy.
Indiana law prohibits state appointees from participating in decisions in which they or their employer have a financial stake in the outcome. Heavily redacted e-mails obtained through the state’s Access to Public Records Act show that Cover was central to the Board’s Well Experience decision-making process and that he used his position on the board to secure special privileges for Walgreens.
The e-mails illustrate inappropriate involvement in the approval process including: Cover’s collaboration with IBOP staff to provide information from Walgreens to other board members; his deliberation on regulatory issues regarding Well Experience with the board’s executive director; and his solicitation of board members’ concerns before any public discussion about Well Experience.
According to the complaint, Cover and the board improperly kept the approval process from public view. The board held secret meetings with Walgreens management in Illinois deliberately arranged to circumvent Indiana laws requiring open meetings.
A complaint filed today with the state Department of Health alleges that a Walgreens pharmacy format, called “Well Experience,” creates unlawful risks to public health and patient privacy. The complaint comes as state lawmakers and regulators consider changes Florida’s requirements for pharmacy supervision.
“With this model, we believe Walgreens is violating its legal and ethical responsibilities to patients,” said Nell Geiser, Associate Director of Change to Win Retail Initiatives, the organization that filed the complaint. “Florida’s largest drugstore chain isn’t above the law, and we are calling on the pharmacy board to make Walgreens adhere to the legally required safeguards.”
Pharmacists in the Well Experience format are removed from the traditional pharmacy work area and are stationed in a public facing desk in front of the pharmacy counter. The out-in-front pharmacist generally views digital pictures and video feeds on his or her computer to supervise prescription fills, and often does not actually handle medication before it is given to patients.
Watchdog group Change to Win Retail Initiatives’ complaint argues that the Well Experience model’s reliance on supervision via computer screen violates Florida statute requiring direct pharmacist supervision of pharmacy staff. At its April 1 meeting, the Florida pharmacy board’s rules committee will consider changes to the supervision law that could permit technological supervision, and the Florida legislature is currently considering legislation that could allow pharmacists to supervise an unlimited number of technicians.
Drugstore customers seeking flu shots this winter may be paying too much because of bad information at the pharmacy counter, according to a new study by watchdog group Change to Win Retail Initiatives (CtW). The group surveyed 50 Walgreens locations in Los Angeles and New York City and found that the nation’s largest private provider of flu shots gave inaccurate information about insurance coverage 48 percent of the time. These errors could be causing customers to unnecessarily pay out of pocket for covered vaccinations or causing some shoppers to not get a shot at all.
Walgreens is the largest private provider of flu shots in the country, and flu shots are important for public health. On average there are 200,000 hospitalizations for flu-related complications each year, and out-of-pocket costs are one common reason people give for not getting vaccinated.
“It is truly shocking that Walgreens cannot consistently give accurate information about flu shot coverage,” said Nell Geiser, Associate Director of Change to Win Retail Initiatives. “Flu shots are important for keeping ourselves and our families healthy, and this study shows that it’s also important for consumers to be educated about their insurance coverage to avoid unnecessary out-of-pocket expenses when getting vaccinated.”