Walgreens embroiled in a stressed-out pharmacist scandal
Walgreens pharmacists have complained of being overwhelmed with work to the point of making errors, but a report seems to indicate that this was a message the retailer wanted to keep hidden from the public.
Last year, business consultancy Tata Consulting Services, which was working with Walgreens, discovered stressed-out, overworked pharmacists who attributed their mistakes to unreasonable workplace expectations at the stores, according to a New York Times article. Emails and chat logs, however, reveal that consultants were advised to keep that information out of a report that was presented this month.
Amy Bixler, director of pharmacy and retail operations at Walgreens, directed the consultants to delete a bullet point in a presentation that addressed how pharmacists ignore proper procedure in order to meet corporate metrics. One of the slides which directly addressed pharmacists making stress-related errors was also removed. The deleted slide also indicated that consultants had been told pill bottles were found containing two different medications as a result of such errors. Walgreens claimed that the company learned about the problem informally from interactions at a few stores and that the changes were made to the report to make sure it focused on technology and user experience.
For Walgreens, 2019 was a rough year in terms of stock performance, which some like Yahoo Finance have attributed to the entry of tech players like Amazon.com into healthcare. Rising prescription drug costs and subsequent consumer shifts to generic drugs, as well as a loss of revenue due to crackdowns on e-cigarette sales, may have also played a role.
The retailer is not alone among pharmacies, however, in facing accusations of putting the public at risk due to the pressure they put on pharmacists, according to the Times. CVS and other major chains have drawn similar heat, with pharmacies described as “understaffed” and “chaotic.”
Walgreens worked last year to disentangle itself from a different scandal — its erstwhile partnership with fraudulent medical testing startup Theranos. In May of 2019, the chain faced a shareholder lawsuit over a perceived failure to vet Theranos, according to Bloomberg Law. Walgreens called for the lawsuit to be thrown out.
- At Walgreens, Complaints of Medication Errors Go Missing – The New York Times
- Walgreens is the Worst Dow Stock Now, Will 2020 Be Different? – Yahoo Finance
- Walgreens Asks Court to Toss Shareholder’s Theranos Suit – Bloomberg Law
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will customer faith in Walgreens be compromised in light of this reporting? What is the appropriate course of action that should have been taken when Walgreens received proof that their pharmacists were being overworked?