Rite Aid Agrees To Pay $498,000 For Violating State Rules On Pharmaceutical Consultations
Monday, June 30, 2014
Rite Aid of California agreed to pay more than $498,000 to settle a consumer protection lawsuit, alleging its pharmacists frequently failed to comply with state rules that require consultations when customers get new prescriptions, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced Monday.
Rite Aid agreed to pay investigative costs of $78,250 and civil penalties totaling $420,000. The San Diego County District Attorney's Office will get a third of the penalties, or about $140,000, and $18,500 of the investigative costs.
Deputy District Attorney Tom Papageorge said the required consultations are supposed to happen when a patient gets a new medicine, new dosage level, a different form of a drug, or when a patient simply requests one.
"Rite Aid is not alone. There are other pharmacy chains that have had these problems,” Papageorge said. “We're working right now with the state board of pharmacy, and the other DA's offices, to investigate the practices of all the major pharmacies and makes sure that everybody is playing by the right rules."
Defendant Thrifty Payless Inc., a California corporation, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Pennsylvania-based Rite Aid Corp., a Delaware corporation. Thrifty Payless Inc. owns and operates the 582 California Rite Aid-branded pharmacies on behalf of Rite Aid Corp.
In 2011, the State Board of Pharmacy brought to the three District Attorneys' Offices the problem of health risks to California pharmacy customers after pharmacies fail to properly provide needed personal consultation to prescription drug customers.
The uninformed or improper use of prescription drugs harms an estimated 150,000 Californians each year and contributes to an estimated $1.7 billion in economic losses throughout the state, according to the District Attorney's Office.
Regulations require pharmacists to discuss with customers how to use prescription drugs when they ask for help, when getting a new prescription or a prescription where the dosage, form or strength the drug has changed.
Working with the Board of Pharmacy, prosecutors conducted an undercover investigation into the consultation practices at several pharmacy chains.
With regard to Rite Aid, the Board of Pharmacy provided prosecutors with copies of 10 citations issued to Rite Aid between March 2008 and August 2012 for violating consultation rules.
Under the settlement, entered without admission of liability, Rite Aid is permanently enjoined to comply with California's standards for patient consultations and must implement a compliance program.
KPBS business reporter Erik Anderson contributed to this report.