Jury Awards Walgreens Customer $1.44 Million Over HIPAA Violation

LOL Blog Label 2By Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm and  George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

An Indiana jury awarded a Walgreens customer $1.44 million on July 26, 2013, over a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violation, according to the Indianapolis Star. The Walgreens pharmacist was found to have violated the customer’s privacy by looking up and sharing the customer’s prescription history with others. The lawsuit alleged that there was a relationship between the pharmacist, her husband and the husband’s ex-girlfriend (who was the customer). The customer/ex-girlfriend was the plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Click here to read the entire article from the Indianapolis Star.

Details of the Lawsuit.

According to the American Bar Association, the lawsuit alleged the pharmacist was married to the customer’s ex-boyfriend at the time the pharmacist viewed her prescription records. The pharmacist admitted to showing the confidential information to her husband, who shares a child with the customer/plaintiff. In doing this, the pharmacist breeched her statutory and common law duties of confidentiality and privacy.

Click here to read the entire article from the American Bar Association.

Walgreens Found Negligent.

The jury found Walgreens negligent in training and supervising the pharmacist. The pharmacist admitted she was aware of the pharmacy’s privacy policy and knew she was violating it. Walgreens claims the pharmacist has been appropriately disciplined.

Deadline to Comply with Omnibus Rule Close-Are You Ready?

The Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) released stronger rules and protections governing patient privacy on January 17, 2013. This omnibus rule strengthens the privacy and security protection established under HIPAA. Physicians, hospitals, clinics, health care providers and their business associates need to take into account the corrections as they work to update business associate agreements, policies, practices and training to comply with the rule changes by the September 23, 2013, deadline. To learn more on the omnibus rule changes, click here to read a previous blog.

Be Proactive-Get a HIPAA Risk Assessment.

A HIPAA risk assessment can significantly reduce, if not entirely eliminate, your exposure to regulatory and litigation sanctions.  It will identify areas for improvement and allow them to be corrected before an auditor finds the issue and causes unwanted problems for you and your practice.

HIPAA laws have most likely changed since you last edited your privacy forms and procedures. Many health providers simply don’t have the time to re-review their policies and revise documents. In a perfect practice, this would be done every six months.

To learn more on HIPAA risk assessments, click here.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Defending HIPAA Complaints and Violations.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in investigating and defending alleged HIPAA complaints and violations and in preparing Corrective Action Plans (CAPs).

For more information about HIPAA violations, electronic health records or corrective action plans (CAPs) please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

What are your thoughts on this HIPAA violation? Do you think Walgreens failed to train and supervise the pharmacist? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Neil, Martha. “Walgreens Must Pay Customer $1.44M After Pharmacy Shared Her Prescription Records.” American Bar Association. (July 29, 2013). From: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/jury_says_walgreens_must_pay_1.44m_because_pharmacist_gave_her_husband/

Evans, Tim. “Walgreens Must Pay Woman $1.44 Million Over HIPAA Violation.” Indianapolis Star. (July 26, 2013). From: http://www.indystar.com/article/20130726/NEWS/307260079/

About the Authors: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Investigates Six Walgreens Pharmacies in Florida

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) served an Order to Show Cause (OSC) on a Fort Myers Walgreens pharmacy on February 21, 2013. According to the DEA, the OSC was served as a notice to provide Walgreens with an opportunity to show cause as to why their DEA registration should not be revoked. The Fort Myers pharmacy is one of six Walgreens pharmacies to be targeted for prescribing practices by the DEA.

Click here to read the press release from the DEA.

According to the DEA, these investigations are part of an effort to curb Florida’s prescription drug epidemic.

Six Walgreens Pharmacies and One Distribution Center Targeted by DEA.

In April 2012, the DEA served and Administrative Inspection Warrant (AIW) on the Fort Myers Walgreens pharmacy, as well as five other Walgreens pharmacies in Florida and its distribution center in Jupiter. According to the DEA, the AIWs were served to determine if the pharmacies were dispensing prescriptions for legitimate medical purposes.

Based on the DEA’s findings, the Walgreens distribution center was served with an immediate suspension order (ISO). Click here to read our previous blog on the ISO served on the distribution center.

Between November 2012 and February 2013, the DEA has served OSCs on six Florida Walgreens pharmacies.

According to an article in Naples News, no action has been taken against the stores’ licenses, so they are still able to fill prescriptions pain medications and controlled substances. An administrative hearing will be held in April 2013. The hearing is an opportunity for Walgreens to present their cases. To read the entire Naples News article, click here.

Two CVS Stores in Sanford, Florida Lost Controlled Substance Licenses.

In September 2012, the DEA revoked the controlled substance licenses from two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida. The two stores are accused of dispensing an inappropriate number of prescriptions for oxycodone and had a suspicious number of sales of other controlled substances. There is a blog on this story on our website, click here to read it.

The Ultimate Results of Such Crackdowns.
I am constantly being contacted by patients who are in dire straits, suffering because they cannot locate a pharmacy to fill their legitimate pain medicine prescriptions. These include injured military veterans, patients who are 100% disabled and on disability or social security, patients injured in automobile accidents and job-related accidents (whose medications are paid for by insurance, if they can find a pharmacy to fill it) and others with real chronic pain issues.

If the largest legitimate chains of pharmacies in the state and nation are not allowed to fill these prescriptions, where will these suffering patients turn? Are these actions driving our citizens into the hands of shady independent pharmacies that have fewer safeguards and less accountability? Are these actions driving our citizens to seek out illegal drug dealers and turn to illegal drugs to cope with their legitimate medical problems? I hope not.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Pharmacies and Pharmacists.

The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists and pharmacies in DEA investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, administrative hearings, inspections and audits. The firm’s attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.
To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of these investigations on big pharmacies? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Drug Enforcement Administration. “DEA Serves an Order to Show Cause on Walgreen’s Pharmacy in Fort Myers.” Drug Enforcement Administration. (February 22, 2013). From: http://www.justice.gov/dea/divisions/mia/2013/mia022213a.shtml

Freeman, Liz. “DEA Targets Fort Myers Walgreens, 5 Other State Stores.” Naples News. (March 7, 2013). From: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2013/mar/07/dea-targets-fort-myers-walgreens-5-other-state/?print=1

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620. He does not own stock in Walgreens or any other pharmacy.

 

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.