Walgreens Under Fire for Not Dispensing "Necessary" Meds Amid Staffing Shortage
The popular pharmacy chain is being called out for failing to fill prescriptions.
While Walgreens offers plenty of convenience to those looking for everything from greeting cards to toiletries, it's also a place many of us frequent to pick up prescriptions. In 2022 alone, Walgreens said its pharmacies filled 1.2 billion prescriptions for customers. But now some people are questioning how much they can rely on the drugstore chain, amid an ongoing staffing shortage that's keeping patients away from the medication they need. Read on to find out more about the latest accusation that Walgreens is not dispensing "very necessary" meds.
READ THIS NEXT: 5 Common OTC Medications Pharmacists Wish You'd Stop Taking.
Medication shortages have made it harder to get some prescriptions recently.
Unfilled prescriptions are a major concern these days, as there are many essential medications facing shortages.
Pharmacies have said they're struggling to stock certain meds—like Adderall, which has been listed on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) drug shortages database since Oct. 2022. This has created problems securing other ADHD medications, as some Adderall users have switched to similar drugs like Ritalin and Concerta thanks to the ongoing shortage.
And that's not all. Albuterol, which is a drug used to help asthma suffers, "has been in short supply for some time," pharmacist Jim Stage, owner of Lloyd Pharmacy in Saint Paul, Minnesota, told local ABC-affiliate KSTP. "It's hard to get it in stock."
University Hospitals clinical pharmacist Ebne Rafi, PharmD, told Spectrum News that it's also been challenging to keep the diabetes drug Ozempic in stock, since it has become popularized for weight loss. "As a result this kind of leaves a shortage for people who do need it for a medical purpose," Rafi said.
But the latest shortage affecting Walgreens customers isn't about medication—it's about staff.
Walgreens is under fire for failing to fill other medications.
Some customers are now claiming that Walgreens is struggling to dispense meds that aren't in short supply.
Chelsea Johnston, who resides in Durango, Colorado, recently experienced trouble filling her antidepressants at the pharmacy chain, The Durango Herald reported.
Johnston told the newspaper that she had originally placed an order on the Walgreens app to have her prescription delivered. But when her prescription status was still listed as "processing" a week later, she placed a new order for pickup at a Walgreens location in Durango.
That second order was canceled the same day, according to a notice sent to Johnston. It's now been a month since she placed her first order, and she has still not received her medication.
"It was a very necessary prescription," Johnston told The Durango Herald. "It was alarming that it just wasn't taken very seriously and I was given no follow up."
The company says it's dealing with a staffing shortage.
Johnston isn't the only person who has spoken out about their trouble with Walgreens. On March 20, a Twitter user called out the pharmacy chain for failing to dispense an antipsychotic medication they needed.
"Shout out @Walgreens who hasn't been able to fill a Vraylar prescription for the past 7 days, causing me to go into a withdrawal from a medication I cannot go without," they wrote.
Best Life reached out to Walgreens about unfilled prescriptions, and we will update this story with their response. But in a statement to The Durango Herald, Walgreens spokeswoman Kris Lathan indicated that a contributing factor in these complaints is that the company has struggled to keep its pharmacies properly staffed due to a nationwide pharmacist shortage.
"For more than a year, these staffing challenges have impacted retailers, healthcare entities and countless other industries," Lathan said in a statement emailed to the newspaper. "We've continued to take proactive steps to address staffing needs, including hiring thousands of pharmacists and other team members, increasing compensation and other measures to reduce workload while creating a differentiated working environment."
Some pharmacists have spoken out against Walgreens.
But Walgreens may be partly to blame for its staffing struggles, according to some pharmacists. "The huge pharmacy corporations [CVS and Walgreens] have created an environment that is not sustainable for pharmacists and technicians to safely serve patients," Sarah Penny, a former pharmacist, told The Durango Herald.
Penny added, "They are expected to staff a pharmacy for 12+ hours with maybe one or two people to: ring up patients (both at the counter and drive through), answer phones (calls from patients, insurance and physicians), take new prescriptions from patients (which includes at least two different verification steps), inputting the prescription, filling the prescription, shelving, inventory management, inputting vaccines, giving vaccines, counseling patients and so on."
In fact, a former Walgreens pharmacy technician (who asked to remain anonymous) told The Durango Herald that these issues are the driving cause for staff turnover and pharmacy closures in Durango.
"Walgreens management failed to keep enough pharmacists staffed to lessen the strain on the pharmacists they had employed and did not make changes even when they [the staff] made complaints," the technician explained.