San Diego, California - 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.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced Monday that, together with several other agencies, they obtained a $498,250 settlement in a lawsuit against the owners of Rite Aid, alleging the chain’s pharmacists throughout the state frequently failed to comply fully with rules requiring personal pharmacist consultations.

“These rules are in place to protect prescription drug customers and make sure they understand how to use them properly,” said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.  “Our Consumer Protection Unit will continue working with other DA Offices and state agencies to hold companies like Rite Aid accountable and safeguard the health of individuals who interact with their pharmacies.”

Regulations enforced by the California State Board of Pharmacy require that a pharmacist must provide personal consultation to a patient receiving a prescription drug not previously dispensed to that patient, or a prescription drug in a different dosage, form, or strength, or on the patient’s request.           

Working with the Board of Pharmacy, the San Diego, Alameda and Riverside District Attorneys’ Offices conducted an undercover investigation of the consultation practices of a number of the major pharmacy chains in California.  The present enforcement action is the second of several such actions anticipated as a result of that investigation, following the similar December 2013 settlement involving California’s CVS pharmacies.

With regard to the Rite Aid chain, the Board provided the District Attorneys with copies of ten citations issued to Rite Aid by the Board of Pharmacy between March of 2008 and August of 2012 showing ongoing violations of the pharmacist consultation requirement. Subsequently, in 28 undercover purchases at Rite Aid stores conducted by the District Attorneys in late 2011 and 2012 in San Diego, Riverside, and Alameda counties, district attorney investigators found a significant pattern of failures to provide the required consultations and/or failures to offer patient consultations by proper personnel. 

Under the terms of the judgment, which was entered without admission of liability, Rite Aid agreed to comply with California’s standards for patient consultations, and must implement an internal compliance program.  Rite Aid also agreed to pay agency investigative costs of $78,250 and civil penalties totaling $420,000. The San Diego District Attorney’s Office will receive $140,000 of those civil penalties and $18,500 of the costs.    

Thrifty Payless, Inc., owns and operates the 582 California Rite Aid-branded pharmacies on behalf of the Rite Aid Corporation.