CVS Under Investigation For Automatic Prescription Refill Allegations

After leaked e-mails seemed to indicate that at least some people at CVS have been pressuring pharmacists to refill customers’ prescriptions — without the patient’s consent — in order to meet sales quotas, federal and state regulators have begun investigating the drugstore chain.

The California Board of Pharmacy confirmed its investigation yesterday to the L.A. Times, which originally broke the story that a pharmacy manager responsible for 17 pharmacies in the mid-Atlantic area sent e-mails to pharmacists urging them to meet certain sales quotas or face “major personnel changes.”

While CVS claimed this was an isolated incident of an employee not following company policy, the Times’ David Lazarus had several examples of customers in California who claimed to have had their prescriptions refilled by CVS without consent. Additionally, some former CVS employees told Lazarus that they too had been pressured by management to refill prescriptions at all costs.

The Board of Pharmacy now joins the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services in investigating CVS. The HHS inspector general’s office began looking into the drugstore chain last week. It’s concerned about allegations that pharmacists were billing Medicare for prescriptions that were never picked up because the customer never requested them.

CVS is no stranger to being probed. In 2011, it paid $17.5 million to settle claims that it had submitted inflated bills for Medicaid patients in 10 states, including California.

The company has maintained through this latest round of allegations that it is against company policy to refill a customer’s prescription without permission.