The legal team at CVS Pharmacy, Inc., might need a little aspirin for the headache they are getting right about now; but they may want to check the expiration date on the bottle first. On November 30, Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General for the state of Connecticut, filed suit against CVS for selling expired food products and medicines. This suit is the third of its kind and follows settlements with Attorneys General Jerry Brown in California and Andrew Cuomo in New York.
California and New York, like Connecticut, filled suits centering around allegations of expired products which consumers would like to think they can rely upon, such as cough and allergy medicine, baby food and formula, children's motion sickness medicine and dairy products. Its not so hard for a consumer to identify expired milk, but baby formula might be a more difficult problem.
In New York, the Attorney General's office sued both CVS and Rite Aid, two of that state's larges chains, for selling expired food and medicine even after the AG's office issued an advisory. New York settled with Rite Aid in December 2008, for $1.3 million. CVS has agreed to pay $875,000 in penalties, costs, and fees. According to the agreement CVS will, among other things, refrain from selling expired products and commit to specific policies and procedures designed to prevent the sale of expired products.
In California, AG Jerry Brown settled with CVS in June of this year. That settlement included a provision that allows customers to receive a $2 coupon if they find any expired products on the company's shelves. CVS will pay $975,000 in civil penalties and costs to the state.
In Indiana, as in the California case, there was also an issue and a suit over how CVS disposed of patient medical information. Indiana AG, Greg Zoeller, settled his state's suit this past July with both CVS and Walgreens over the way customer prescription records were handled, to wit; conveniently if recklessly, dumped in outdoor dumpsters. The Indiana AG's Office reports that federal laws, including the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA were also violated by this practice. The federal Office of Civil Rights also investigated and eventually reached its own settlement with CVS for $2.25 million in civil penalties. Perhaps CVS lawyers should pass the aspirin to Walgreens and Rite Aid.