CVS Agrees to a $1.5 Million Settlement With Ohio for Penalties Related to Understaffing and Safety Concerns at Its Pharmacies

Credits: Cleveland.com

CVS Health, a major retail pharmacy operator, has agreed to pay $1.5 million in penalties to the state of Ohio as part of the settlement for 27 safety cases investigated by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy.

This settlement, which includes the largest penalties ever imposed by the state board, addresses issues primarily related to understaffing in 22 CVS pharmacies.

The violations, identified during inspections between 2020 and 2023, encompassed concerns such as dispensing errors, prescription delays, dirty equipment, expired medications, poor drug security, and failure to report losses of controlled substances.

CVS Pharmacy (Credits: Fox Business)

Understaffing was a significant contributing factor to these safety concerns, prompting the Ohio Board of Pharmacy to advocate for immediate and systemic changes.

As part of the agreement, the eight CVS stores with the most significant staffing issues will be subject to “advanced monitoring” by the board for the next three years, funded by CVS.

Additionally, CVS has voluntarily committed to complying with several yet-to-be-finalized state rules aimed at enhancing patient safety. These rules include mandatory rest breaks, dispensing prescriptions within three days or less, and implementing a process for staff to notify management of understaffing.

The Ohio Board of Pharmacy anticipates that these proposed state rules will be finalized within the next few months, potentially applying to all pharmacies in the state. CVS, with over 9,000 retail locations nationwide and the largest U.S. pharmacy by revenue, operates as the largest retail pharmacy operator in Ohio.

The company expressed its satisfaction with the agreement, emphasizing its commitment to enhancing positive identification systems and providing safe, high-quality pharmacy care.

Retail chain pharmacies have faced concerns related to patient and workplace safety, primarily linked to understaffing, prompting CVS and other chains to make efforts in recent years to address these issues.

The pharmacy industry has experienced shrinking profit margins for more than a decade, and the problem intensified during the pandemic, leading to staffing shortages and increased work responsibilities.

Retail pharmacies have responded with hiring initiatives, wage increases, and adjustments to metrics, but concerns persist, particularly regarding the potential for medication errors.

CVS spokesperson Amy Thibault highlighted the company’s commitment to appropriate staffing levels, with targeted investments, including increased wages for pharmacists and bonuses for frontline colleagues.

The settlement with the Ohio Board of Pharmacy represents one of the largest penalties related to staffing issues in the state and possibly nationwide, according to board spokesperson Cameron McNamee.

I'm Richard Rosales, I cover political news and ongoing US elections.