Walgreens pays $500k to settle lawsuit

The Walgreens Co. pharmacy chain has agreed to pay $500,000 to settle a consumer protection lawsuit that alleged that its pharmacies didn’t properly consult with consumers of prescription drugs, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said Tuesday.

The civil complaint, which was filed in San Diego County Superior Court by the California State Board of Pharmacy and the district attorneys of Alameda, Riverside and San Diego counties, alleged that pharmacists at Walgreens pharmacies in California frequently failed to fully comply with the board’s rules requiring personal pharmacist consultations when prescription drug customers receive new prescriptions or new dosages of existing prescriptions.

O’Malley said that in 2011, the state board contacted the three district attorney’s offices about health risks that may arise when pharmacists fail properly to provide needed personal consultation to prescription drug customers.

She said the three offices, working with the state board, conducted an undercover investigation of the consultation practices of a number of the major pharmacy chains in California.

Under the terms of the judgment in San Diego County Superior Court, which was entered without admission of liability, Walgreens is required to comply with California’s standards for patient consultations and must fully implement an internal compliance program. O’Malley said.

The Walgreens entities also agreed to pay agency investigative costs of $79,200 and civil penalties totaling $423,000, according to O’Malley.

O’Malley¬†said Walgreens and its counsel worked cooperatively with prosecutors to promptly resolve the matter and to implement the new compliance procedures:

“Pharmacist consultations are imperative to make certain that prescriptions have been filled according to a doctor’s order as well as to advise the patient of proper and safe usage of the medication.”

She added:

“My office remains dedicated to ensuring that the public has access to knowledge and education regarding the use of all prescription drugs.”

Walgreens said in a statement:

“Our settlement agreement is consistent with our company’s long-standing commitment to make pharmacists available to patients for advice and consultation on their medications and any other health concerns they may have.”