The State of New York has sued CVS Caremark Corp. for selling expired products. The filing of this suit came on the same day the state announced the settlement of similar claims against Rite Aid Corp. for as much as $1.3 million. In the CVS lawsuit, New York officials accused the chain store of selling items that had expired as far back as 2006. Last spring, state investigators said they found old products at 60% of the CVS stores visited in New York and 43% of Rite Aid stores visited.
As part of its settlement, Rite Aid agreed to conduct weekly inspections of its New York stores to ensure expired over-the-counter drugs, infant formula, milk and eggs aren’t offered for sale. According to a statement by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Rite Aid will immediately pay a $1 million civil penalty and as much as $300,000 more if it fails to comply with the agreement during the next three years. The Attorney General had this to say:
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.
In the suit against CVS, the Attorney General claims that, by selling expired products, the company violated New York’s Executive Law and General Business Law, as well as federal and local laws. CVS is the nation’s second-largest drug store chain by number of stores, behind Walgreen Co. Rite Aid ranks third. The relief sought by New York is for CVS to be ordered to retain an independent monitor for monthly checks, post signs for consumers that they are entitled to refunds for expired products and their health risks and pay a civil penalty of $500 for every violation of general business law. CVS says it has been cooperating with Attorney General Cuomo’s office and says it was disappointed the suit was filed.
In 2003, CVS resolved an earlier investigation by New York that revealed the chain sold over-the-counter drugs after their expiration dates. The company then agreed to stop selling expired drugs and implement safeguards for the future. In June, Cuomo announced the results of a probe that included about 1,000 locations of several drugstore chains. Investigators turned up more than 600 expired products, including baby formula. Expired products were sold at more than 122 Rite Aid stores and 148 CVS stores in New York, according to the Attorney General’s office.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown also accused CVS in June of last year of selling expired baby food and over-the-counter drugs. In March, the Fairfield Department of Health in Pennsylvania found 100 expired baby food items at six CVS stores, according to Attorney General Cuomo’s suit. The complaint filed against CVS said:
The widespread nature of these violations indicates that CVS has not taken seriously its legal obligations or its responsibilities to its consumers vis-Ã -vis the sale of expired products.
There can be no excuse for any store to have products for sale on their shelves that are old. It’s especially bad when the date-expired products are drug and food items. The Attorneys General of New York and California should be commended for their dedication and their actions to protect consumers in those states.
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