NBC 5 Responds

NBC 5 Responds: Consumers in Lurch After Looters Force Pharmacies to Close

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My pharmacy is closed. What do I do now?

That is the question on the minds of many Chicago area residents after damaging riots that have closed many pharmacies across the city and suburbs. Some have been looted, vandalized, and others closed for safety reasons, leaving many neighborhoods without their closest pharmacy.

“They were slamming the windows shut, and I said I really need this medication,” one pharmacy customer said.

Closed pharmacies are also causing hardship for some already battling illness, in need of refills.

"I'm 85. I was surprised to learn it was closed. I needed the medicine,” another customer said.

Cook County Board President Tony Preckwinke says she’s especially concerned about the many pharmacies affected being in places where residents are particularly susceptible to Covid-19.

“These are the places our seniors depend on for their meds. In our black and brown communities we know that we have disproportionate numbers of people who suffer from diabetes, hypertension, heart disease,” Preckwinkle said today. “That of course is a potential tragedy for people denied their meds.”

What should consumers do if the pharmacy with their prescription on file shuts its doors?

NBC 5 Responds asked CVS and Walgreens that question.

CVS told us each closed pharmacy’s phone system has been rerouted to a nearby CVS pharmacy so all patients will continue to have access to care. But cautioned there have been delays in getting through.

A spokesperson said it reopened twelve stores in the city today, while 24 remain closed.

Walgreens could not say how many stores are closed, but did say information about them is continually updated and can be found on the store locator on walgreens.com and its mobile app.

A spokesperson said the situation remains fluid and they are working to reopen as quickly as is safe and possible.

We also turned to the Illinois Pharmacists Association for guidance here. Executive Director Garth Reynolds acknowledges pharmacies are facing an uphill battle.

“It's an increased challenge with an already stressful situation,” Reynolds said. “The majority of medications are not restricted or controlled substances. And those can be transferred between one pharmacy and another.”

The IPHA says prescriptions for some restricted meds can be transferred, but many of those commonly prescribed, cannot.

“Now the real problem comes if a patient needs a Class II medication, which is usually chronic pain medications like hydrocodone Oxycontin or your ADHD meds, Reynolds said. “It's more likely preferred the patient will go directly to the physician to get a prescription.”

Walgreens issued a statement:

“In the event of a temporary store closure, we refer patients and customers to the nearest open Walgreens location. This information is also continually updated and can be found on the store locator on Walgreens.com and our mobile app. The situation remains very fluid and we’re working to re-open impacted stores as quickly as possible once determined safe to do so.

“Prescription delivery is available and an alternative for many customers. Some controlled substances are able to be transferred (depending on the category), others such as CII would need to contact the prescriber for transfer.”

CVS also issued a statement:

“Each closed pharmacy’s phone system has been rerouted to a nearby CVS Pharmacy so all patients will continue to have access to care. There can be a delay for this automatic phone transfer to occur due to the status of neighboring stores changing as well, so customers should continue to check back to be directed to the nearest open store. We’re continually monitoring the situation in each community we serve and will close stores, if needed, to ensure the safety of employees and customers.

“Excerpts from CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo’s message to employees about our commitment to inclusion and belonging are available here.

“More than 300 CVS Pharmacy locations across 25 states have experienced varying levels of damage over the past several days from protest activity. Thankfully, no employees have been hurt.

“Nearly 24 Chicago-area stores are still closed, but we did reopen more than a dozen today. “

“With regard to prescription delivery, we are offering free 1-2 day delivery via www.CVS.com. We are working to open stores as quickly as we can.”

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