Getting prescriptions filled for the next couple of days may be tricky, as it is expected that hundreds of pharmacists may call out of work to protest working conditions at CVS and Walgreens.
The protests started attracting notice after almost a dozen CVS stores in the Kansas City area refused to come to work in mid-September, and they've only grown since then.
According to NBC News, organizers of the “Pharmageddon” protest said that around 900 people in almost 10 states will be participating in the ongoing protest which started Monday and is set to end Wednesday. Along with sickouts and walkouts, members have also discussed protesting at the corporate headquarters of both companies in Deerfield, Illinois, and Woonsocket, Rhode Island, which could take place Wednesday.
This protest is different from others, as there is no union, and pharmacists aren’t asking for higher pay. The primary request is for their employers to hire more staff in order to alleviate the workload and to eliminate policies that make them work faster. They note that these conditions are likely to lead to mistakes that could harm a patient.
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According to NBC News, Walgreens said only two pharmacies were closed Monday and one remained shuttered on Tuesday. The company also stated that is listening to employees’ concerns and frustrations
“We recognize the incredible work our pharmacists and technicians do every day and have taken a number of steps in our pharmacies to ensure that our teams can concentrate on providing optimal patient care,” the company said in a statement.
CVS stated it had not seen any “unusual activity” that is connected to store closures or walkouts and also noted that it has made changes to address some past complaints.
“In response to recent feedback from our pharmacy teams, we’re making targeted investments to address their key concerns, including enabling teams to schedule additional support as needed, enhancing pharmacist and technician recruitment and hiring, and strengthening pharmacy technician training,” the company said in a statement.
The executive director of the National Association Boards of Pharmacy and former practicing pharmacist Al Carter, noted that drugstores can’t control how much they are paid for filling prescriptions. However, they can control their spending on employees’ pay where they tend to tighten their belt.
Employees emphasize it’s too tight, especially with the extra responsibilities, the closing of community pharmacies, and the fact that the three largest U.S. chains are all in the process of closing stores.
Michael D. Hogue, American Pharmacists Association CEO, said in a news statement on Monday that the group stands with the pharmacists on strike.
"For far too long, employers have made the situation worse than it needed to be," he wrote, emphasizing that quotas that require that pharmacists fill a certain number of prescriptions or administer a greater number of vaccinations are destroying the relationships they have with patients.
"Supervisors who are not pharmacists do not understand the needs of care teams and make unreasonable demands on time-based productivity,” he said.