Rite Aid to pay $498K to settle lawsuit

SAN DIEGO - Rite Aid of California agreed to pay more than $498,000 to settle a consumer protection lawsuit, alleging its pharmacists frequently failed to comply with state rules that require consultations when customers get new prescriptions, San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced Monday.

Rite Aid agreed to pay investigative costs of $78,250 and civil penalties totaling $420,000. The San Diego County District Attorney's Office will get a third of the penalties, or about $140,000, and $18,500 of the investigative costs.

"These rules are in place to protect prescription drug customers and make sure they understand how to use them properly," said Dumanis, whose office worked with the Riverside and Alameda District Attorneys' Offices and the State Board of Pharmacy to win the settlement. "Our Consumer Protection Unit will continue working with other DA offices and state agencies to hold companies accountable and safeguard the health of individuals who interact with their pharmacies."

Defendant Thrifty Payless Inc., a California corporation, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pennsylvania-based Rite Aid Corp., a Delaware corporation. Thrifty Payless Inc. owns and operates the 582 California Rite Aid-branded pharmacies on behalf of Rite Aid Corp.

In 2011, the State Board of Pharmacy brought to the three District Attorneys' Offices the problem of health risks to California pharmacy customers after pharmacies fail to properly provide needed personal consultation to prescription drug customers.

The uninformed or improper use of prescription drugs harms an estimated 150,000 Californians each year and contributes to an estimated $1.7 billion in economic losses throughout the state, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Regulations require pharmacists to discuss with customers how to use prescription drugs when they ask for help, when getting a new prescription or a prescription where the dosage, form or strength the drug has changed.

Working with the Board of Pharmacy, prosecutors conducted an undercover investigation into the consultation practices at several pharmacy chains.

With regard to Rite Aid, the Board of Pharmacy provided prosecutors with copies of 10 citations issued to Rite Aid between March 2008 and August 2012 for violating consultation rules.

Under the settlement, entered without admission of liability, Rite Aid is permanently enjoined to comply with California's standards for patient consultations and must implement a compliance program.

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