Groups call for investigation of Walgreens executive

Published: .
Updated: .

Is it a case of feathering your own nest or an honest, above-board example of a Walgreens executive playing within the rules? Now, it will be up to Indiana's Inspector General to decide.

Two consumer groups are calling for an investigation into whether a Walgreens executive used his position as president of the State Pharmacy Board for the benefit of his employer.

It was a change designed to address customer questions, but it is raising a few as well. The changes at the Walgreens pharmacy department were implemented late in 2011. The goal was to move pharmacists out from behind the counter to a floor workstation, closer to customers.

"Change to Win," a national grass roots consumer rights group, is alleging that move puts customer privacy at risk, when private information is left unattended and there is more.

"The president of the Board of Pharmacy, also a Walgreens executive, used a private, secret and corrupted process to push this model of pharmacy through and, in fact, did not recuse himself," Nell Geiser from Change to Win said in an interview from her New York office.

Former pharmacy president William Cover did recuse himself when the issue came up for a final vote, but emails obtained by Change to Win were heavily redacted and raise questions as to his actions prior to the board vote.

"Everything is supposed to be out and open for public scrutiny. I don't think that is what happened in the Walgreens case and we think the questions involved are severe enough that we need the state's top ethics officer to look at this and weigh in and see if he agrees rules were broken," Julia Vaughn from Common Cause stated.

A very thorough investigative summary was delivered to the office of the Inspector General Monday morning. Sue Swayze, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency said in a statement that Cover's actions were merely coordinating logistical issues.

"The board member in question did not discuss the issue with state regulators but, rather, only with state employee responsible for the logistics of the visits, and later recused himself from the discussion and the vote," she wrote.

"We can't let things like this go uncensored because then the rules become needless and people really won't abide by them," Vaughn added.

Walgreens says the store layout is safe. The question now is, was the process that brought it all about ethical? That has yet to be decided.

Walgreens statement

"We believe all regulations and policies for the board of pharmacy and for our company were followed in these discussions. We are proud of the work we've done to create this new pharmacy model and provide a higher level of service to our patients.

"Change to Win, as a union-backed organization seeking to increase membership for its affiliated unions, has filed multiple complaints regarding this pharmacy model. Yet these complaints have failed to lead to any findings by regulators against this pharmacy model. On the contrary, our pharmacy model has been approved by all of the more than 30 state pharmacy boards where we have presented it."