AG halts expired product sales

Hundreds of pharmacies across New York State have been selling expired products, including over-the-counter drugs, baby formula, milk, and eggs, according to a statement released by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo recently.
On Thursday, December 4, Cuomo announced that national pharmacy chain Rite Aid had reached a $1.3 million settlement with his office as a result of an investigation earlier this year.
Cuomo also said that legal action continues against another chain, CVS stores, which violated a similar agreement reached with his office in 2003.
“In today’s difficult economic times, consumers should not be spending their hard earned money on expired products that may be harmful to themselves or their children,” he said.
An undercover investigation of all major drug store chains in New York State was conducted between last March 25 and May 13. It uncovered sales of expired products in over 122 Rite Aid stores and 148 CVS stores in more than 41 New York counties.
A Rite Aid store in Flushing sold investigators a package of teething medication that was three months out of date in late March. Another store in Rego Park sold three packages of stale over-the-counter medications - one that was nine months past its sale date.
Cuomo announced the findings of his office’s investigation in June and issued a public health advisory at that time.
Subsequent inspections at both Rite Aid and CVS stores revealed that both stores were continuing to sell expired products even after the Attorney General’s advisory.
As part of its settlement, Rite Aid has agreed to immediately pay a civil penalty of $1 million and an additional penalty of up to $300,000 if it fails to comply with the terms of the agreement over the next three years.
They agreed to refrain from selling expired products, institute protocols to ensure that expired products are not stocked on Rite Aid shelves and begin employee training to assist their employees in identifying and removing expired products, Cuomo said.
Rite Aid agreed to conduct weekly inspections of its New York stores to ensure that expired over-the-counter drugs, infant formula, milk, and eggs are not offered for sale.
These internal compliance checks for expired products will continue for a period of three years. Any Rite Aid store that fails its compliance check will be subject to a fine of $2,500.
“Today, Rite Aid has demonstrated its commitment to addressing the serious health risks posed by expired products and to ensuring that consumers get the quality products they pay for,” Cuomo said, adding, “I commend Rite Aid for its cooperation with our office in resolving the concerns raised by our investigation.”
CVS is another story, according to Cuomo.
His investigators purchased expired medicines and baby formula from CVS on Wednesday, December 3, just a day before the announcement.
The lawsuit against CVS charges the company with repeated violations of state, federal, and local New York laws by selling over-the-counter drugs, infant formula, milk, and eggs - that had expired as far back as 2006.
Cuomo is seeking to permanently prevent CVS from selling or offering to sell expired products by requiring them to institute enhanced training, disclose to consumers the serious health risks of using expired products, and compel them to retain a permanent independent monitor to perform random checks at New York stores monthly.
The Attorney General is also seeking refunds for all CVS consumers who purchased expired products and fines based upon its repeated and serious law violations.
According to the statement, Cuomo is pursuing these actions because of the company’s “unwillingness to properly address the problems found at its New York stores,” citing the five-year-old agreement “To institute procedures and employee training to prevent the sale of expired medication.”
Cuomo pointed out that consumers who purchase and use expired over-the-counter drugs, infant formula, milk, and eggs may suffer serious, even life-threatening consequences.
Once an over-the-counter drug has passed its expiration date, there is no assurance that it is safe to the consumer or effective for its intended uses.
Infants and children are particularly susceptible to the health risks from using expired products, Cuomo stressed.

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