Walgreens Store Redesign Raises Privacy Concerns

(Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

(Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

By Chris Richard

Privacy activists are voicing concern that Walgreens pharmacies may endanger the confidentiality of customer records with a new business model that places pharmacists at a desk on the store floor.

The “Well Experience” model makes it much easier for customers to view pharmacists’ computer screens and documents on their desks, according to a report prepared by the research arm of Change to Win, a labor-backed organization whose constituents include pharmacists and pharmacy technician unions.

“We have heard from pharmacists, not necessarily in our membership, who work in this model, who are very concerned about its implications for the practice of pharmacy,” said Nell Geiser, associate director of Change to Win Retail Initiatives.

“Think about it for a moment. If you were to go to a doctor, would you want to be out in the lobby talking to your doctor?” — Beth Givens, director of the San Diego-based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

“Pharmacists want to do their job well and serve the public, and they also want to protect their license, which is on the line if any error takes place in their pharmacy.”

Change to Win is concerned about the possibility of increased thefts — especially of narcotics —   as well as the risk of errors in formulating prescriptions under the new Walgreens model. The model removes pharmacists from their usual in-person supervisory role, Geiser said. Continue reading

Pharmacies Braced for Cuts to Their Medi-Cal Payments

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Pharmacies across the state are bracing for a blow to their revenues. Starting Friday, Medi-Cal –the state’s health coverage for low-income patients — will start paying 10 percent less for filling certain prescriptions. Though the number of drugs affected is less than originally outlined, pharmacists are still worried.

Many of them say there is a misconception that they make loads of money selling drugs. But after they pay pharmaceutical companies for the medications they stock, there’s little profit left, they say. An additional cut could put them in the red on some drugs.

“The margin in drug products is roughly 2 to 4 percent,” says Jon Roth, CEO of the California Pharmacists’ Association. “If you’re looking at a 10 percent reduction, you’re immediately upside down and dispensing medication at a loss.” Continue reading