“I believe I am a danger to the public working for CVS.” – Anonymous CVS Pharmacist – PART TWO

“I believe I am a danger to the public working for CVS.” – Anonymous CVS Pharmacist — Part ONE



They Must be Anonymous, But They Will Not be Silent!

The title for the editorial commentary in the May issue of The Pharmacist Activist is, “I believe I am a danger to the public working for CVS.” That is a quote from a letter from an anonymous (but known to me) CVS pharmacist to a board of pharmacy. I have received so many responses to this issue, the majority of which are from current or former CVS pharmacists, that I am using this June issue to include excerpts and examples from the responses. With several responses, I have made minor editing changes to prevent the identification of the pharmacists who voiced the concerns, but the importance and strength of their concerns are not changed.

I would also reiterate that there are thousands of excellent pharmacists who work in CVS stores, and the concerns identified are not a criticism of them but, rather, are to support them by increasing awareness of conditions and situations that they can’t even communicate within CVS because of their fear of being terminated. It is the CVS management-imposed metrics, working conditions, and understaffing that place consumers at risk and are the basis for this criticism.


From current CVS pharmacists:

“Subject: CVStress. All of what the anonymous pharmacist said is true, but there is more. Recently, CVS started a program where electronically sent prescriptions may be verified by another CVS store within the state. It is my feeling that eventually pharmacies will be operating without pharmacists. Everything will be done by some communications methods. I firmly believe this is what the chains want. Imagine the profits then!! This is part of the reason they are pushing to get their employees to be named to state boards of pharmacy. I’ve worked in hospitals, independents, and chains. My hours were cut and I didn’t know about it for 2 weeks until after the starting date for the change. There is no more profit sharing. No more premium pay for covering extra shifts. Our health insurance premiums have skyrocketed. Working conditions are worse than you can possibly imagine.
    While all of the above causes a financial and emotional hardship for me, the real people who suffer are the patients (customers to CVS). They are not getting the care and attention they deserve. They get bombarded by text messages and phone calls almost begging them to come in and spend their money. I have no time to do anything that I know I should be doing. I never thought I’d say this, but I can’t wait until my retirement. I truly enjoyed being a pharmacist but now I’m just a highly paid robot who feels more like a liability than an asset to my employer.
    What am I doing about it? I recently spoke with a pharmacy student with whom I work who was planning on working for CVS following graduation. I explained my experiences and feelings about working for CVS, and the student obtained another position and will be much better off. It may not be a lot, but everyone can do something. You may use any of this information you wish and I know you will respect my request for anonymity.”

“I am losing my full-time status in my store and will have to pick up a shift elsewhere to stay full-time. Cuts and closures are happening everywhere. As pharmacist cuts occur, more techs are added and the tech: pharmacist ratio is far beyond the limit allowed in my state.”

“I am aware of a pharmacist who is opening an independent pharmacy that will be near a CVS store. However, Caremark is purposely delaying the application into its provider network. Because this is a heavy Caremark provider area, a new pharmacy would have great difficulty opening without Caremark plans. Caremark is doing everything they can to delay the opening of new independent pharmacies, so that they can keep their profits in-house.”

“Another scam, or as CVS would like to say ‘patient care calls.’ Added to our duties are 10 or 15 calls per day designated as pharmacist special message calls. We are to call patients and tell them that the pneumonia shot the doctor ordered is waiting for them at the pharmacy and to come on in to get the shot.”

(Editor’s note: I contacted this pharmacist and asked whether there were doctors’ orders for the vaccine for specific patients. His response is below.)

“There are no doctor orders. We use one doc, as for all injections. CVS selects patients who are age appropriate and may be at risk. The way I have been handling this is asking them if they have any questions about meds and that this is a general call and that we appreciate them as a customer. I also tell them that we are offering pneumonia shots, and many respond that they have already had the shots.”

“We get screamed at by customers because their prescriptions are not ready when promised. We get behind and the CVS response is ‘too much red in this store today.'”

From pharmacists previously employed by CVS:

“I was let go from the company for ‘business purposes’ when district revenues were down. At least that’s what I was told. However, I and others believe that CVS and some other chains are looking for reasons to fire older pharmacists. The work environment, stress, and inability to keep up with company metrics are only a few factors which contribute to an unsafe environment. I have many stories. Even when I was let go, I had to fight for my final paycheck and stock purchase withholdings.
    Although I no longer work for CVS, I choose to remain anonymous at this time because I am concerned CVS will find a way to retaliate. However, there is a need to expose the truth. I once heard a sermon in which it was stated: ‘To sit and watch evil IS evil.’ Somehow, that thought keeps going through my mind.”

“Since the time I retired from CVS, I have stayed in touch with my friends there. CVS lost a number of pharmacists in our area in just two months. They still can’t find technicians and many who have been there for years are leaving. Customers are extremely unhappy with service and prices. There is no help.”

From a board of pharmacy member:

“I will be bringing this up at the next board meeting.”

From a former hospital pharmacist:

“What you describe in the May issue of The Pharmacist Activist is not unlike what occurs thematically in hospital pharmacies. I am SO glad that I’m out of that mess! I feel (and am) betrayed by our profession after all the work I put into it.”

From an executive of a company that works closely with pharmacists:

“I empathize with all these pharmacists. Many of these chains and supermarkets have their performance metrics. That is bad news. There is even worse news!! Many State Boards of Pharmacy are CONTROLLED by the chains and supermarkets!! They have ‘their own people’ in place to knock down any and all complaints that come in that would adversely affect anything that the chains and supermarkets are doing!! I was shocked to learn that it does no good at all to complain to the Boards of Pharmacy.”

From customers:

“I am so grateful to be back at Skippack Pharmacy! Between Express Scripts and CVS, I had enough. I was so tired of having no eye contact. Made me wonder if one of my pills fell on the floor, would they pick it up and put it in the pill bottle? Mayank (the new owner who reopened Skippack Pharmacy after CVS bought and closed it) is great and we love having him here.” (Editor’s note: Please also see the separate commentary about Skippack Pharmacy in this issue.)

(Editor’s note: I also received many other responses voicing criticisms regarding CVS, but the comments provided above are representative of the concerns communicated to me. The comment below is the single response I received that is complimentary of CVS.)

“My experience at a local independent pharmacy was unsatisfactory, and I went to a CVS that I now patronize exclusively. The pharmacists and techs all wear white uniforms. When I have new prescriptions, the pharmacist, without being asked, always presented me with the new drug and asked if he or she could explain. I have found the personnel at our local CVS to be very professional.”

From a producer of a television news program:

“Do you think the CVS pharmacist you wrote about would go on camera?”

I informed the anonymous pharmacist I quoted, as well as several other current CVS pharmacists who have voiced concerns to me, of the television producer’s question. They declined to be interviewed on camera because they anticipate CVS would terminate them and there are not other positions for pharmacists available in their areas. I then contacted pharmacists who have voiced concerns, but who no longer work for CVS. Even these pharmacists are not willing to be interviewed on camera because they are concerned that CVS would find a way to retaliate against them. I responded that I understood their concern and assured them I would not place any pharmacist at risk by disclosing their identity. Another pharmacist with whom I communicated had been a pharmacist manager with CVS for several decades before he was terminated. He sued CVS and, following an extended legal battle, was successful in receiving a large settlement from CVS. I do not know the specifics of the settlement because CVS insisted that the terms of the settlement be confidential as a condition for the agreement. Therefore, the information is not publically available and the pharmacist is restricted from disclosing any information.

I asked the television news producer if interviews could be conducted in a manner that would disguise the identity and voice of those interviewed. He did not anticipate that this would be done, but is looking into it and the outcome is pending.

I wish to express my appreciation to the pharmacists who have had the courage to communicate their concerns to me and for their trust in me to protect their identity.

Daniel A. Hussar

5 Responses

  1. It was a CVS pharmacist that called my ( double board certified ) doctor and warned him that he was writing too many opiate pain prescriptions. ( He takes all the complex neuroimmune/ chronic pain/ chronic illness patients that few doctors have time for.) So what is the deal here? CVS is doing the DEA “dirty work?” So, driving by the local CVS – big letters on side of building “ BEER. WINE” Just a little hypocritical ? Planning local CVS protest.

    • Yes, and no. It’s not just CVS, it’s everywhere in the corporate chains. Just as all pharmacists were threatened by corporate a couple years ago to fill those pain prescriptions OR ELSE! Literally overnight they completely reversed course and all of a sudden placed the blame for filling any illegitimate prescriptions squarely on the pharmacist. So then it was, “Fon’t you fill any bogus prescriptions…OR ELSE!” Corporations try to distance themselves for liability at the expense of their employees, no matter where it comes from. Pharmacists are now trained how to calculate MMEs and overall risk scores for any patient br8nging in any controlled substance prescription. And states have different rules on what drugs are controlled, which makes it more challenging. Your overall risk score in Kentucky where gabapentin is classified as a controlled pain killer may be higher than in surrounding states. Retail pharmacy has been transformed from a wonderful, well-respected profession to the most dreaded and horrific job in the medical field because of corporate pressure and DEA witch hunts. The entire Justice Department needs a taste of humble pie. Pharmacists are afraid for their jobs, their freedom, and their well being knowing corporations are not going to back them up. Their only choice is to protect themselves, and that means not filling many controlled prescriptions that may well be legitimate. If they don’t know 100%, they refuse to fill, which carries a punitive reporting process in its own right. Pharmacists can’t win. So what do you do as a consumer? Use your local mom and pop drug store. And no, I’m not a mom and pop drug store owner or employee. I’m a former corporate pharmacist who got ahead of the firings and cut backs going on right now because corporations stopped filling many of the 40 – 60% of the total number of prescriptions they once filled for their being controlled drug scripts. Pharmacies haven’t focused in prescription numbers in business projections in a few years now. It’s all about MTM and vaccines, and glucose or cholesterol testing, or whatever else they can figure out to make a dollar on. Prescription volume hasn’t been a part of any business or profit growth conversations for about 4 years at least. It’s all about performing MTM consults and convincing every customer they need multiple vaccines to remain healthy. Store pharmacists are even made to go throughout the community and find businesses to let them come into the business and set up a vaccine clinic at various times. Those who don’t get enough commitments or give enough vaccines are fired. So if your pharmacist hounds you about vaccines or sitting down to let him perform finger sticks or medication consults of an extended nature, he or she is doing it because their job depends on it. Many pharmacists will be forced into other professions as the number of prescriptions filled steadily declines. What corporate doesn’t understand is that filling prescriptions is the only reason customers are there to begin with. Without the prescriptions, there will be no MTM or vaccines, or whatever else. Pharmacy is in a BAD place right now like never before. More and more pharmacy schools open and turn out ignorant kids with a degree that is going to bring them a couple years of misery and hardship in exchange for the still good, but declining salary until they can’t take it anymore or are exhausted and fired so the company can get a fresh batch of recruits ignorant to what’s about to happen. The schools don’t want the kids to know the reality of what’s happening because enrollment will plummet causing closure of very lucrative programs. But alas, I digress. These are not your concern . Your concern is getting the med you need when you need it legally and without unnecessary hassle. Good luck with the DEA looking for something to do to justify their jobs. Some practices are corrupt and trade narcotic prescriptions for sex, money, or other illicit forms of payment. Some seem undeterred by the riding number of DEA busts. But it makes life VERY difficult for legitimate practices seeking to help those people who need it the worst and are turned down by other clinics fearing DEA sanctions. See your mom and pop pharmacy and best of luck!

  2. America is no longer the Land of the Free. Pharmacists, physicians and patients have been silenced. Many of them are under gag orders, and are not allowed to speak up. Even the number of complaints are proprietary, that means they are secret. of course no media outlet will cover any of this, it would scare off the advertisers.

  3. Has anyone noticed what is dominating America? FEAR! This is not the nation I grew up in. EVERYONE IS TERRIFIED. The cause? The demonic GREED of corporations and the socialistic/communistic country we are becoming!

    Wake up everyone, we are losing our freedoms. I’m 67 and pray that God takes me soon, terrifying things are just ahead and moving fast. This is what happens to God-forsaken nation’s.

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