CVS, Walgreens agree to new consumer protections

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Richard Essex/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Two big drug store chains are adopting new measures to keep you safe from identity thieves. It's all because of an Eyewitness News investigation that included dumpster diving in trash cans across the city.

The Indiana attorney general's office started their investigation after WTHR finished ours. 13 Investigates found that CVS and Walgreen's had thrown sensitive patient information into dumpsters behind the stores. We were able to access the dumpsters without issue. The deal, according to the attorney general's office, is designed to make sure sensitive patient records stay safe.

"The agreement is designed to do two things, and that is to protect the public interest. The public interest will be protected by requiring them to have certain training programs and compliance programs reporting requirements. The idea is to give us information that they are not engaged in practice that would violate federal law," said David Miller, deputy attorney general.

The chains will implement extensive employee training, management policies and detailed reporting to provide stronger safeguards so that customer privacy is not compromised.

The cases involved ten CVS and six Walgreen's pharmacies. The attorney general's office in Indiana filed administrative complaints in 2007 with the Board of Pharmacy against the licenses of individual pharmacies and pharmacists involved in the data disclosures.

The tentative deal reached by the Indiana attorney general, along with several federal agencies, orders CVS to pay one of the largest fines for breaching patients' security.

The federal Office of Civil Rights also investigated the privacy breaches and reached its own settlement with CVS where CVS agreed to pay the federal government $2.25 million in civil penalties.

Indiana University Law Professor Henry Karlson says it's a serious agreement.

"They've paid over $2 million to the federal government and agreed to report any future violations to the pharmacy board and Attorney General and training programs for all their employees that will prevent future violations," he said.

CVS will also make a $1,000 donation to a charity of its choice in addition to the $2.25 million federal agreement.

"This is unusual in the sense this is a significant case and certainly it came to our attention through some of your efforts," said Miller.

Walgreen's is also ordered to re-pay the state $6,000 for the cost of the investigation. A federal investigation of Walgreen's is still ongoing.

"I think the culture of making sure information is protected is pretty clear and this kind of agreement I think certainly sends that message," said Miller.

Read more on the investigation