Former Pharmacist Sues CVS

Wrongful termination lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that a veteran CVS pharmacist recently filed a lawsuit against the healthcare chain alleging he was wrongfully discharged. He claims that his termination was in part due to his complaints of understaffing, which put increased pressure on pharmacists and led to medication errors.

There has been mounting tension between stores like CVS and Walgreens and its pharmacists in recent years, as employers try to increase prescription output while revenue slips to historic lows. The plaintiff, Pennsylvania resident Joseph Zorek, has a second lawsuit pending in state court against the chain. In this case he is alleging CVS harassed him by attempting to relocate him after he complained about staffing practices.

Zorek was employed as a pharmacy manager at a 24-hour CVS from 1968 until 2012. Despite it being the area’s busiest CVS store, management requested a 20% cutback in pharmacy technician hours. This subsequently led to an increase in mistakes in labeling and filling prescriptions.

Prescription and medication errors can be extraordinarily dangerous, even fatal in some patients who are on rigid, long-term medication regimens. Zorek told the Wall Street Journal that he and his staff were berated after the cutbacks because they were unable to meet the prescription sales metrics.

Behind Walgreens, CVS is the nation’s second-largest pharmacy chain. In 2012, for the first time in nearly 60 years, American spending on prescription drugs fell. Experts assert that this trend is influenced by heightened use of generic drugs, which are significantly less expensive than brands but are required to use the exact same ingredients.

A little more than four billion prescriptions were dispensed in the U.S. in 2012, which is more than double the rate in 1996. In the six years between 1996 and 2012, however, the number of drug stores in the country remained constant, at around 55,000. Not surprisingly, pharmacists working in these stores have felt the brunt of increased workloads, high-stress environments, and unrealistic expectations for revenue and output.

According to a recent study, about 75% of Oregon’s chain pharmacists said their work environment did not support patient safety. In response to this report, Oregon legislators decided to increase their ability to levy fines, revoke pharmacy licenses, and implement other disciplinary measures if pharmacy conditions were in any way endangering public safety.

Lawsuits such as Zorek’s have proliferated considerably within the past ten years, as overworked pharmacists file complaints with state boards and legislatures. Among their complaints include lengthy daily shifts and illegal lack of breaks.

Pharmacists and employees, however, are not the only ones filing lawsuits against CVS for its unsafe practices. In April 2013, the family of a 58-year-old woman sued CVS after a medication error caused her death. The Florida woman died in May 2011 after filling five prescriptions when she was meant to have only four. The fifth medication, 500 mgs of hydrocodone, was prescribed by a different doctor than the woman’s and was meant for an entirely different CVS patient. Hydrocodone is a narcotic painkiller, extremely addictive and dangerous in patients who are not prescribed.

The woman took all five medications given to her by the CVS pharmacist and consequently died a few days later. An autopsy revealed she died of multiple drug intoxication. A similar lawsuit against Walgreens recently concluded with a $33.3 million jury verdict awarded to the family of a woman who died after taking improperly-dosed drugs. The Walgreens reportedly gave her 10 times her prescribed dosage of cancer medication, causing a brain hemorrhage and paralysis.

Dangerous drug lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have decades of experience advocating on behalf of those seriously injured or killed by defective, recalled, or improperly prescribed medications. If you or a loved one fell victim to such an incident, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation for your pain and suffering.

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