Some patients in New Jersey filled their prescriptions only to receive pill bottles containing the wrong medication.  The mix-up happened at five separate CVS pharmacies in Camden, Morris and Union Counties. 

(Flickr Photo: Charles Williams)

Now, CVS-Caremark has reached an agreement with the State Attorney General and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs to resolve the concerns.

The pharmacies, located in Budd Lake, Chatham, Cherry Hill, Rahway and Scotch Plains mistakenly commingled various types of pills that had very different medical effects.

"The Division of Consumer Affairs launched an immediate inquiry to ascertain the facts and potential harm to consumers, of a pill dispensing error at the CVS in Chatham and soon learned about similar incidents at a total of five CVS pharmacies across New Jersey, all within a short span of time," said Attorney General Jeff Chiesa. 

"In order to protect the public and prevent these errors from happening again, the Division pushed CVS to work with us on an effective solution.  As a result, CVS has already begun to enhance its quality and safety assurance measures, and has agreed to contribute $650,000 toward a Division of Consumer Affairs education and enforcement campaign on prescription drug safety and abuse," Chiesa said.

More Training, Oversight

Under the agreement, CVS staff members were retrained and oversight and quality assurance measures in the company's New Jersey pharmacies were enhanced.

These measures include closer monitoring to ensure prescriptions are filled accurately before they are dispensed.  Consumers will also be given additional resources to check the accuracy of their own medication.

CVS will pay the Division of Consumer Affairs a total of $650,000 in part to fund a public education campaign which will help New Jersey's consumers correctly check their medication, ask their pharmacist or doctor when they have questions about medication and check available resources to learn about their prescriptions.  The public will also be made aware of the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

In response to the incidents at the five pharmacies, CVS reached out to all potentially affected consumers, directed them to appropriate medical resources and took steps to replace the mistaken products with the correct medications.  CVS also notified the Division of Consumer Affairs and the State Board of Pharmacy.

Under the agreement, CVS admits no liability, but agrees to take the following steps at all New Jersey pharmacies:

  • CVS has retrained the staff at all of its New Jersey pharmacies in procedures to be followed when unclaimed prescriptions are returned to pharmacy stock.  Some of the errors arose when employees overlooked or circumvented the company's longstanding procedures.
  • CVS has retrained all specialists assigned to stock and dispense medications from automated filling machines.  CVS stopped use of the automated filling machines in its New Jersey locations until staff responsible for filling the machines had been retrained.
  • CVS has established enhanced procedures regarding the use of automated filling machines. A pharmacist will visually inspect every pill before loading the machines.  Routine refilling of all machines will be scheduled to occur only during specific "down time," enabling this critical function to take place during less-pressured business hours.
  • CVS will continue to adhere to its various policies intended to ensure accurate and safe dispensing.  Pharmacy supervisors will advise CVS employees throughout New Jersey that noncompliance with company policy and procedure will result in employment consequences proportionate to the conduct.

In addition, quality assurance reviews will be conducted once a month by the pharmacist-in-charge, district supervisors will conduct store visits at least once a month and CVS will notify the Division of Consumer Affairs and State Board of Pharmacy within three days after a commingling error has occurred.