Complaint to Dept of Health Alleges Patients Are Put at Risk by Florida’s Largest Drugstore Chain

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.

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Good Medicine, Bad Information: Survey of Drugstores Finds Misinformation about Flu Shot Coverage

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.”

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