Pharmacy employees at Walgreens told consultants late last year that high levels of stress and “unreasonable” expectations had led them to make mistakes while filling prescriptions and to ignore some safety procedures.
But when the consultants presented their findings at Walgreens’s corporate offices this month, there was no reference to the errors and little mention of other concerns the employees had raised.
That’s because senior leaders at Walgreens had directed the consultants to remove some damaging findings after seeing a draft of their presentation, a review of internal emails, chat logs and two versions of the report shows.
In one instance, Amy Bixler, the director of pharmacy and retail operations at Walgreens, told them to delete a bullet point last month that mentioned how employees “sometimes skirted or completely ignored” proper procedures to meet corporate metrics, according to the chat logs and the draft report.
A slide detailing “errors resulting from stress” was also removed. The consultants, a group from Tata Consultancy Services that was examining the company’s computer system for filling prescriptions, had included the slide among their “high level findings.”
Pharmacists in dozens of states have accused Walgreens, CVS and other major drugstore chains of putting the public at risk of medication errors because of understaffed and chaotic workplaces, The New York Times reported last month.
In letters to state pharmacy boards and in interviews with The Times, pharmacists said they struggled to keep up with an increasing number of tasks — filling prescriptions, giving flu shots, answering phones and tending the drive-through, to name a few — while racing to meet corporate performance metrics they characterized as excessive and unsafe.
The pharmacy chains have pushed back on the complaints, saying staffing was sufficient and errors were rare. Walgreens told The Times that its pharmacists knew “they should never work beyond what they believe is advisable.”
But the consultants heard similar complaints in interviews with workers at eight Walgreens pharmacies last year. Both versions of the consultants’ report noted “a widespread perception that there is not enough time to respond to all pharmacy tasks.”