This is not frivolous. They have been preparing this for months. ”Go, Joe”. This story is not in the Business Section of the Harrisburg Weekly Shopper. It is a feature in the Wall Street Journal. A WSJ investigative reporter in Atlanta has a file cabinet full of damning evidence on Big Evil. Perhaps now, finally, they will let him loose.
- The Wall Street Journal
A veteran pharmacist, who worked at CVS Caremark Corp. CVS +0.31%until last year, filed a civil lawsuit against his former employer this week, alleging he was wrongfully discharged—in part, because he complained to management that staff cutbacks were contributing to increased pressure on pharmacists, causing prescribing errors.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday at a U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, Pa., is one of the latest developments reflecting the growing tension between chain pharmacists and their employers, as drugstores increase prescription output in the face of a historic slump in revenue. The case is unusual, though, because previous complaints by druggists over their work environments have been mostly lodged with state boards of pharmacy—and not in federal court.
The plaintiff, Joseph Zorek, of Harrisburg, Pa., also has another lawsuit pending against CVS in Pennsylvania state court. In that suit, filed while he was still an employee, he alleged that CVS harassed him and tried relocating him after he raised similar staffing concerns.
Mr. Zorek, 61 years old, was employed as a pharmacy manager at a 24-hour CVS in Harrisburg until last year that was the “area’s busiest,” according to the lawsuit. His lawsuit asserts that in early 2011, a 20% cutback in pharmacy technician hours led to “a greater number of mistakes in filling and labeling prescriptions.” He and his staff were “berated…for not meeting the prescription sales metrics,” by the store’s district manager and others, the lawsuit alleges.
CVS Caremark, the nation’s second largest pharmacy chain by store count, denies the allegations in Mr. Zorek’s lawsuits and plans to defend the case vigorously, said Michael DeAngelis, a company spokesman. “The health and safety of our customers is our number one priority and we have comprehensive policies and procedures in place to ensure prescription safety,” he added.
Since the case involves pending litigation, Mr. DeAngelis said the company had no further comment.
U.S. spending on prescription medications in 2012 fell for the first time in almost six decades, according to a May report from IMS Health Inc., which tracks prescription drug sales. The trend is driven by increasing use of generic drugs, which are more profitable than branded medications but bring in less revenue—a challenge for retail pharmacies with high fixed costs.
Prescription drug volume totaled four billion scripts last year, nearly doubling from the 2.2 billion in 1996, IMS said. During that time frame, however, the number of U.S. retail drugstores remained roughly constant at around 55,000 locations.
According to a 2011 survey by the Oregon board of pharmacy, 75% of the state’s chain pharmacists said their work environment didn’t support patient safety. That report led to the state having more powers to levy fines, or even revoke a pharmacy’s license, if work conditions were endangering safety.
Over the past decade, pharmacists have filed a growing number of complaints with state boards and legislatures claiming lengthy daily shifts and the lack of work breaks, said Laura Carpenter, a Phoenix-based lawyer and president-elect of the American Society for Pharmacy Law, a nonprofit industry group.
Write to Timothy W. Martin at email@example.com