Understaffing at Pharmacy Chains Puts Patients at Risk

Pharmacists at large U.S. retail chains like Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid, are filing complaints with state regulatory boards about working in understaffed and chaotic environments, which they argue are putting them at risk of making medication errors.

Pressure from pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) may be to blame for understaffing at chain pharmacies, and poor performance caused by pharmacists who are rushing to meet corporate metrics may be putting the public at risk.

“When a pharmacist has a legitimate concern about working conditions, we make every effort to address that concern in good faith,” CVS said in a statement. Walgreens claims it made “clear to all pharmacists that they should never work beyond what they believe is advisable.” Both companies declined to provide data about errors.

State boards and lawmakers are trying to keep companies accountable, with some adopting laws to introduce lunch breaks or limit the number of technicians each pharmacist can supervise. However, when a medication mistake is reported to a board, the board almost always acts against the pharmacist, rather than investigating conditions at the company.

Source: The New York Times, January 31, 2020.