Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Investigative Journalism Brings Action

WTHR's Bob Segall's prescription privacy investigation last year teaches local journalists what investigative journalism is all about. Attorney General Steve Carter has filed 28 complaints with the Indiana State Board of Pharmacy against pharmacies and pharmicsts, including drug store giants CVS and Walgreens, after Segall rummaged through pharmacy dumpsters and found untold confidential health information about pharmacy customers. Segall reports:

The nation's largest drug store chains are facing disciplinary action after Indiana's attorney general filed formal complaints against them for failing to protect customer privacy.

The complaints were filed in response to WTHR's 2006 Prescription Privacy investigation, which revealed pharmacies around the nation improperly disposed of confidential patient information in their unsecured dumpsters. WTHR found thousands of patient records while checking hundreds of pharmacy dumpsters nationwide.

Fourteen months after the "Prescription Privacy" investigation, the attorney general's office says it has completed its own investigation.

Attorney General Steve Carter filed 28 complaints with the Indiana State Board of Pharmacy. Seven of the complaints name CVS drug stores, five have been filed against Walgreens pharmacies, and two name locally-owned independent pharmacies for violating state and federal privacy laws. The remaining complaints have been filed against the pharmacists in charge of the drug stores at the time of WTHR's reports.

The complaints were filed August 31 and were recently made public on the website of the Indiana Pharmacy Board.

State regulators have not ruled out the possibility of formal action against additional pharmacies. "There could more complaints coming," said Staci Schneider, a spokeswoman for the Indiana attorney general's office.

The complaints allege the pharmacies lacked adequate policies to protect patients' sensitive records and that "pharmacy staff carelessly included private health information with general trash rather than destroy this protected information in a manner designed to properly safeguard patients' privacy."

Indiana law requires that pharmacies guard against the release of confidential patient healthcare information and protect the identity and location of recipients of controlled substances. At each of the drug stores named in the state complaints, WTHR found patients' names, addresses, healthcare treatment information and other personal information in unsecured dumpsters.

Here's a list of those against whom complaints have been filed by the Attorney General:

CVS locations:
5611 Georgetown Road, Indianapolis
5502 W. 38th Street, Indianapolis
9550 Allisonville Road, Indianapolis
8330 Crawfordsville Road, Indianapolis
8935 E. 21st Street, Indianapolis
13050 Publishers Drive, Fishers
1825 Albany Street, Beech Grove

Walgreens locations:
1505 E. 86th Street, Indianapolis
5199 N. Keystone Avenue, Indianapolis
4555 N. Shadeland Avenue, Indianapolis
9050 E. 38th Street, Indianapolis
3205 E. Washington Street, Indianapolis

Independent locations:
Low Cost Rx, 8375 Madison Avenue, Indianapolis
Tucker Pharmacy, 1650 E. Raymond Street, Indianapolis

Patrick Zimmer
Michael Williams
Carrie Campbell
Tracy McRorie
Todd David Chappell
Frank Cockman
John Steven Miller III
Adiam Hago Adal
Robert Pison
Jerome Wolfe
Troy Michael Martin
Terry Cole
Steven Weileman
Lloyd Tucker

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