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CVS Fined $1.5 Million by Ohio Over Staffing Issues

CVS Health, the nation’s largest pharmacy chain with more than 9,000 locations, has been fined more than $1.5 million by Ohio regulators over problems connected to understaffing and patient safety, officials said.

The fines are part of a settlement of 27 cases involving various safety concerns that were uncovered during a series of inspections of 22 pharmacies between 2020 and 2023, the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy said in a statement on Thursday.

The board said that it found, among other things, improper drug security, errors dispensing drugs, prescription delays, lack of general cleanliness, understaffing and failure to report losses of controlled substances.

The settlement comes as pharmacies nationwide have been plagued by labor issues. In November, some pharmacy workers called in sick or walked off the job to call attention to what they say is inadequate staffing and growing work demands.

The Ohio board levied a $1.25 million penalty against CVS. Over the next three years, the company will also pay approximately $250,000 to cover the costs “of enhanced monitoring” by the board.

In addition, eight stores will be placed on probation for three years, the board said.

In a store in Toledo, Ohio, inspectors last year found drug shelves were dusty and cluttered and that pharmacy counters were dirty, according to state records. At the same outlet, inspectors reported finding unlabeled amber vials containing medication.

At that store, the report also cited, among other things, a complaint about an error about a brand versus generic prescription being dispensed and a complaint about medication being given to the wrong patient.

CVS will appoint an Ohio compliance liaison, who will be a licensed Ohio pharmacist, to communicate between the company and the board about compliance with state and federal pharmacy regulations.

“By entering into this settlement agreement, the board seeks immediate and systemic changes to protect patients and address critical understaffing,” Steven W. Schierholt, director of the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, said in the statement.

“We believe that this agreement is an acknowledgment by CVS that considerable changes are warranted to ensure the safe practice of pharmacy at their retail stores,” he added.

CVS Health has about 350 locations in Ohio and more than 9,000 retail locations nationwide, according to the board and the company.

In 2020, CVS Health was fined $125,000 by state regulators in Oklahoma for conditions found at four of its pharmacies, including inadequate staffing and errors made in filling prescriptions.

In a statement on Sunday, a CVS Health spokeswoman, Amy Thibault, said that the company is “pleased to have reached an agreement with the Ohio Board of Pharmacy regarding years-old allegations involving some of our Ohio pharmacies.”

She added, “We look forward to working with the board on these matters moving forward, including enhancing our positive identification systems, and continuing to provide safe, high-quality pharmacy care to our patients.”

In addition to the settlement, the pharmacy board said that it recently filed a set of rules with the State Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review to strengthen regulations on working conditions in pharmacies.

The rules, most of which CVS has voluntarily agreed to comply with, include requirements for pharmacies to develop a process to address staffing concerns and provide mandatory rest breaks for pharmacy staff members.