CVS Blocks Pharmacists From Rx Drug Databases

By Carmela Kelly 02/28/12

The pharmacy chain—which had two stores raided in Florida for mass Oxy sales recently—is adamant that its policy is justified.

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Pharmacy chain CVS Caremark Corp. tells The Fix it has no intention of allowing its pharmacists access to prescription drug monitoring databases, despite recent trouble with the DEA and a lawsuit for alleged illegal distribution of OxyContin by two of its stores in Florida. The databases, which are run by the Florida State Department of Health, were set up to help pharmacists nationwide prevent sales to drug abusers. According to CVS director of public relations Michael DeAngelis, the company is sufficiently “trained and prepared” to recognize inappropriate drug use by some customers.

Some pharmacists disagree. Dr. Rich Lawrence, of Ft. Myers Prescription Shop says, “The database goes a long way in helping people who are abusing medication to get the help they need and toward getting criminals who might be selling the medications on the street.”

Meanwhile, six CVS pharmacists face DEA scrutiny for selling staggering amounts of Oxycodone sales at two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida. According to federal court documents filed on Friday, the DEA says the pharmacists “filled prescriptions for controlled substances that they knew or should have known were not for a legitimate medical purpose,” noting that the pharmacists remain employed by CVS. The pharmacy chain and its key pharmaceutics supplier, Cardinal Healthcare, filed an injunction against the DEA’s ban on sales of controlled substances by the two pharmacies in February.

“The role of pharmacies in prescription monitoring programs is to provide information (to the state) on prescriptions that are actually filled," DeAngelis tells us. "Our handling of this task from a centralized location unburdens our pharmacies from having to perform this at the store level.” Pharmacists’ lack of access to state prescription drug monitoring databases isn't mentioned in the current litigation.

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Carmella Kelly is a reporter living in the Phoenix area. Find her on Linkedin