In late January, I refilled a prescription at my local CVS. This is a three month prescription, which I filled a few weeks early. On the outside of the pack, the pharmacy very helpfully put a sticker on that indicated the pills should be used or tossed within one year. No problem there, I planned to use them up in the next few months.
Assuming all was well with this prescription, as it’s pre-packaged, and therefore should be prescriber-error free, I took them for two months. I thought perhaps there were weird side effects, but I had also been running a lot in preparation for last weekend’s race, so I didn’t think much of it.
Until, for no apparent reason, I flipped over the package one evening and noticed the expiration date. 12/08. Nearly two months before I filled the prescription! Since it was after hours, I immediately turned to Google to check for possible side effects. Thankfully, everything I read (and my doctor confirmed) was that the worst thing that was going to happened was reduced effectiveness, and possibly not even that since many drug companies print an expiration date that is about 6 months earlier than it needs to be, just to be safe. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to ever risk it and take expired medicine, but it was good to know.
I went into CVS the next morning, prepared for a fight. I brought in all the information from the prescription and wrote down the details of the prescription (date, pharmacist’s name, etc.) in case they took it from me so that I could file an official complaint. I was ready.
I explained the situation to the pharmacy tech, who looked horrified, immediately printed up the prescription record and pulled out a new package of pills. Without me asking, she also showed me the expiration date of the new pack, which was well into 2010. She couldn’t give me the prescription without the pharmacist looking it over, but all she had to do was tell him that they had given me expired medication and he said that giving me the new pack was fine. No questions asked.
I’ve had issues with this particular pharmacy before (misplaced prescriptions, swearing that I had picked things up when I hadn’t) and I’ve observed many more (the one that stands out the most was when a man was trying to get a prescription for his newborn, named Nicholas, and they wouldn’t give him the medication because the prescription was for B.B. Lastname – “Baby Boy”). But I keep going back because it’s insanely convenient – to the point where I have to walk past it on the way to and from work every day.
I know this sort of thing can happen – but it just makes me wonder how often it happens with pills that have to be counted out and aren’t in a package where the consumer can check the expiration date. Not a whole lot I can do about that, I suppose, and I don’t know that scoping out a new pharmacy is going to guarantee things are better.
The lesson here is to just be as cautious as possible. I will be checking expiration dates before I leave the store from now on, that’s for sure.
And some new info: I sent a complaint through the CVS website, and got a phone call from the brand new regional manager for the pharmacies in the area. Poor guy just took over, and said that he had received a number of complaints, and after checking out the place himself, the pharmacy went from number 15 on his list of priorities to number one. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to continue to be cautious, but it’s nice to know that someone takes these concerns seriously.