CVS is hit with a $250,000 fine for understaffing a store so badly that it was a month behind on filling prescriptions

  • A CVS store in Ohio was in a state of disarray when the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy visited it.

  • Inspectors said phones weren't working, the AC was broken, and the store was massively understaffed.

  • The store has now been slapped with a $250,000 fine.

CVS has been fined $250,000 by state regulators in Ohio who said that it understaffed a store so badly that prescriptions weren't being filled in a timely manner and medicine was being stored in a haphazard way.

The decision follows an investigation by the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy, which sent inspectors to CVS' store in Canton, north-east Ohio, in mid-September 2021.

Inspectors found that phones weren't working properly, the AC unit was broken, and the store was massively understaffed.

Some medications were stored on the floor, including by the pharmacist workstation, and a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was stored in an unlocked freezer, the Board said in a letter to the store and to CVS management.

The Board said that the store had violated standards that say pharmacies have to store drugs and devices in "in a clean, sanitary, and orderly condition."

There was also a backlog of prescriptions on the store's dispensing software, the Board said.

Staff the inspectors spoke to said that they'd asked district leaders to temporarily close the store as well as provide them with some extra out-of-hours staffing so that they could organize the pharmacy and catch up on filling prescriptions, but their requests were denied.

The store, however, had closed its lobby and was only serving customers at the drive-thru because of its understaffing, the Board said in the letter. About 10 cars were in the drive-thru line at the time of the inspection, the Board wrote.

An agent at the Board spoke to a pharmacist at the store on the phone around a month and a half later, who said that the backlog of prescriptions had gotten much worse. The pharmacy was more than a month behind in filling prescriptions, the worker said.

The Board said on Tuesday that the store would have to pay a monetary penalty of $250,000.

The store also has to make sure that it's staffed highly enough "in order to minimize fatigue, distraction, or other conditions which interfere with a pharmacist's ability to practice with requisite judgment, skill, competence, and safety to the public," the Board said.

New and refill prescriptions have to be ready for patients to pick up within three business days, or five days for prescriptions generated by an auto-refill program, the Board said. Any prescription fills or refills that take longer than this have to be flagged to the Board, it said.

A CVS spokesperson told Business Insider that the Board of Pharmacy's allegations stem from inspections made in 2021, "during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic."

"We've made great strides to improve the conditions there in the years since, including putting a strong pharmacy team in place that continues to provide high-quality care to patients," the spokesperson said.

"We're committed to ensuring there are appropriate levels of staffing and resources at our pharmacies," they added.

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