I intended to draft this blog one day two years ago but a clearer head the following morning caused me to reason that our experience was most likely a "mistake" or isolated event. So I let it pass -- until this past week after reading several news reports about CVS Pharmacy's established pattern of behavior in deceiving consumers in a rather sophisticated scheme.
One day my wife and I drove through the drive-thru window of the CVS Pharmacy located on Cowan Road in Gulfport, Mississippi, and presented for filling a renew prescription for an estrogen patch. Our insurance company had dictated that if we were to take advantage of discounted prescription drugs that we had to buy them only from CVS Pharmacy. In the policy literature this is what was instructed; I would later learn this was not true. Anyway, the pharmacy staffer informed us that this medication was no longer covered on the insurance plan. She further informed us the brand product would be $125 and the generic would be $84. The copay of $10 on this product was no longer effective she said.
Flummoxed, I turned to my wife intending to pay the $84 as, like other men, I enjoy the peaceful benefits at home living with a woman who takes medication that has something to do with moods. Anyway, my wife, being the frugal buyer she is vetoed both the purchase of the brand and the generic products until we could verify it with the insurance company. So we retrieved the prescription and drove out.
As we did I suggested we bring the prescription to Beach Pharmacy, an independent pharmacy located a couple hundred yards down Cowan Road. Which we promptly did. We drove through the drive-thru window of Beach Pharmacy, and saying nothing of what had just happened, handed the staffer the prescription. A few minutes later I was handed the prescription in a brown bag along with the copay of $10. My wife and I looked at each other. I then asked the lady if there had been a problem with filling the prescription or with qualifying it through the insurance company and she said no. She asked why. I told her briefly what we just experienced at CVS and saying nothing she raised her eyebrows. I said, "You've heard this story before?" She said nothing and just nodded, obviously being very charitable about it.
On the way home I transferred our prescriptions from CVS to Beach Pharmacy. There haven't been any repercussions or change in prices with our medications. And everything that was previously covered is still covered.
I only share this now because what seemed for me at first to be an isolated managerial mistake appears now to be something different because CVS has been all over the news about their willful deception upon consumers and insurance companies, a sophisticated scheme at that, in overpricing generic medications, which you can read about in detail HERE and HERE.
Also, at some CVS Pharmacies in Rhode Island they were knowingly filling fraudulent prescriptions for hydrocodone pain pills written by non-physicians, including psychiatric nurse practitioners, who were not licensed to prescribe hydrocodone. For this CVS agreed to pay $22 million to resolve a two-year investigation into two pharmacies which subsequently had their DEA licenses revoked -- in addition to another $450,000 for a separate case. You can read about that HERE.
CVS has also been charge with illegally charging women for medications under the Affordable Care Act. You can read about it HERE.
And HERE is a report on CVS, who along with Rite Aid and Target Pharmacies are/have been charging 18 times more for generics compared to independent pharmacies.
For general consumer complaints, you can read about those HERE.
Consumers, insurance companies, and with respect to the filling of fraudulent pain-killer prescriptions, the community at large are the victims of their deception.
As if this wasn't enough, this is additionally salt in the wound for people who continue to find they are having to pay higher and higher copays and drug prices. I wrote about this issue a couple of months ago HERE.
In general, independent pharmacists have a vested personal interest in your repeat business that, in my opinion, is more acute and stronger than what you might find in a chain pharmacy, lending to a more personal approach to your pharmacy needs. While not all chain pharmacies are like CVS, in general they are more beholden to the bottom-line driven by policies ingrained from a top-down management that subordinates the service to customers, in many cases, to the interest of profits.
If you ever reconsider where you buy your prescription medicines, you may want to try one of the many reputable independent pharmacies in our area: Beach, Back Bay, Burnham's, Economy, Fred's, French Drugs, Jackson's, Long Beach, Medical Arts, T-D, Triplett Day, Turner's, Polk's, Sartin's, and Woolmarket Pharmacy.