MANCHESTER – When Walgreens Pharmacy caught fire at 4993 Main St. on Sept. 14 last year, the company waited two months to tell the state’s Office of Professional Regulation that the business was closed indefinitely.
But in the meantime, it continues to charge customers for prescriptions and refills they can’t get, state regulators have been accused of in a blistering complaint seeking discipline until the company’s Vermont license is revoked. .
The complaint, issued by the state Office for Professional Regulation on June 21, also alleges a serious medical error in Manchester: A refill five times the prescribed dose led to misgivings and other complications for a youth in the area.
According to the complaint, in February the pharmacy mistakenly filled a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication with a dose of 50 mg per pill instead of 10 mg. The increase in dose led to symptoms including “trembling hands, blurred vision, nausea, balance issues, hallucinations and high blood pressure.” Symptoms persisted for several days after the error was discovered, and the student was prevented from attending class, the complaint said.
The pharmacist indicated that the 50 mg bottle was in the wrong location, and instead of scanning each bottle, the technician scanned the same bottle five times, the complaint says.
Another allegation against the Manchester store claims it did not submit a patient’s vaccination information to the state Department of Health after they received a COVID booster.
The allegations were filed June 21. Under the law, Walgreens has 20 days to respond to the allegations, which the Office of Professional Regulation will then be asked to certify before the state Board of Pharmacy.
Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens, operates 32 stores in Vermont, costing more than 25 percent of the state’s pharmacies, according to the complaint. That also includes locations in Brattleboro, Bennington, Bellows Falls and Wilmington.
The company – the second -largest pharmacy chain in the country – declined to comment on the allegations.
“We’re not going to make any statements at this time,” Fraser Engerman, Walgreens ’senior director of external relations, said in an email last week.
The 40-page complaint alleges the company unreasonably restricted consumers ’access to the drug by closing stores without notice; that it fails to follow federal and state professional standards; and that it engages in “conduct in a manner likely to deceive, defraud or harm the public.”
“The shortage of adequate pharmacy staff resulted in more than 325 days in which unexpected and unscheduled Walgreens retail pharmacy closures occurred statewide between July 2020 and April 2022, leaving thousands behind. patients without access to prescription medications, ”the complaint said.
The complaint further alleges that Walgreens “failed to comply to a severe measure” of state law by operating stores without a pharmacist supervisor, including locations in Bellows Falls and the Canal Street in Brattleboro.
It also alleges that the company failed to identify or address “conditions that would interfere with a pharmacist’s ability to practice competently and safely or create an environment detrimental to patient care” by failure. to rule rest periods.
The state complaint also states that Walgreens ’computer system continues to order refills and charge customers; insurance on medicines they cannot access because the store is closed. That’s what causes customers to scramble to find another pharmacy to fill out the script – and in some cases, leads to customers paying out of pocket at huge costs.
The Manchester store, which will be a Rite-Aid Pharmacy until 2019, is not expected to close from Sept. 4 to Sept. 9, 2021, according to compliant. A sign indicates that the store’s computer server is down, the store is “closed until further notice,” and customers must call locations in Bennington or Rutland.
When the store reopened, “all patient prescriptions in the‘ will call ’category were changed by the system to a status indicating that the prescriptions had already been issued. This systemic malfunction creates further delays for patients.
But a bigger trouble is just around the corner.
When a fire hit the building on Sept. 14. – a disaster that brought about three dozen firefighters to the scene from several towns – Walgreens “failed to notify the Board of Pharmacy of this unplanned and indefinite closure within 48 hours, “and failed to publicly disclose its intentions and the location of future prescription files, the complaint said.
But even though the doors were closed, the billing computers were running.
Walgreens has not deactivated automatic processing for patient refills or new prescriptions for existing patients after a fire, and continues to “automatically process insurance billing for prescription medications. cannot be filled and given at the store to patients because it is closed, ”the complaint says.
This “creates significant barriers for patients to get their medications elsewhere, including patients who have to pay out of pocket,” the complaint says. It admitted that at least 14 patients, some with significant medical conditions, had experienced delays in receiving medication.
The company finally told the state on November 8 that its Manchester location was closed, and that it expected to reopen in the week of December 15. It did not tell the state that it would reopen on December 11.
Manchester Walgreens closed again between Jan. 9 to 13, and put up a sign ordering patients to contact the Rutland location, the complaint said.
During that closure Town Manager John O’Keefe wrote to the Vermont Office of Professional Regulation seeking answers.
“Needless to say, a pharmacy is an important or critical service. With only two pharmacies in the region, having one almost multiple times and over many months has a huge impact on the community,” O said. ‘Keefe the regulators. “The on-again, off-again status of the store is frustrating for Manchester and Northshire residents, and has a real impact on the health of area residents.”
News of the complaint against Walgreens, posted on the Journal’s Facebook page, led to responses from area residents describing their problems dealing with the pharmacy giant.
“I wouldn’t be shocked. They admitted to giving me a refill when they didn’t, ”Taylor Greason wrote. “[They] charged my insurance, I couldn’t refill the script and had to go through hoops to prove I wasn’t lying and then had to pay out of pocket for this $ 150 medication. They also gave me the wrong amount several times and accused me of taking medicine in my car. … Their license must be fully revoked. ”
Another Facebook user, Krystyne Healy, said the Manchester location filled out a script for her daughter, then informed her that someone else had taken it.
“They never fixed it with our insurance…“ It wasn’t on the shelf, and they claimed someone from Bennington Walgreens or Rutland Walgreens came over and picked it up and when I called both locations, they said no “Someone went to Manchester Walgreens to get medicine to find out where. They were there. That’s why we changed.”
If Walgreens ’repeated closures have affected patients, many are voting with their feet – and their prescriptions, bringing their business to The Pharmacy -Northshire on Ways Lane.
The business, the Manchester branch of Bennington -based The Pharmacy, saw a 50 per cent increase in customers during the closing months at Walgreens between September and December 2021, manager Diane Harrington told the Journal yesterday January. To meet the demand, the pharmacy borrowed technicians from its sister business and promoted free shipping service, due to its parking limitations.
The Department of Professional Regulation, which operates under the Office of the Secretary of State, conducted the investigation and filed the complaint.
Walgreens ’license to operate in Vermont expires July 31, 2023. The state has requested that the Board of Pharmacy“ revoke, suspend, reprimand, condition or otherwise discipline ”Walgreens’ license to operate in the state.
“Pharmacies have an important role to play in Vermonters’ health care, which deserves safe and reliable access to the essential medicines they trust, Secretary of State Jim Condos said in a statement. “Many local pharmacists and pharmacy technicians work diligently and with the care of their customers beyond their work.
“Before the enforcement action is finalized the state must confirm the allegations in detail of the cases before the Board of Pharmacy. It may take some time to complete,” Condos said.