Pharmacies busted again
Bob Segall/13 Investigates
All week, Eyewitness News has shown how some local pharmacies are trashing your privacy by putting your personal health information in their garbage where anyone can get it. Our prescription privacy test showed most local pharmacies leave their dumpsters wide open, and at drugstores where we took garbage bags, we found more than half the pharmacies failed to properly destroy discarded customer information.
In the wake of our investigation, Walgreens and CVS - which own most of the pharmacies in central Indiana - issued apologies and promised to address the problem quickly to make sure it didn't happen again.
So did they? Over the past few days, we re-checked pharmacies to see if they have indeed made changes to better protect their customers privacy.
A dozen local CVS stores fared much better this time around. Only one dumpster had patient information in it - a single patient label in a bag of trash at a Carmel CVS.
It wasn't the same story at the Low Cost Rx store on Madison Avenue. Tuesday afternoon, we found a bag full of customer information in the dumpster in front of the store. Just four days earlier I had informed the pharmacist that their customer information was getting into the open dumpster. Apparently, nothing's changed there.
At most drug stores, in fact, we found the dumpsters are still wide open. And it didn't take long to find customer information once again - right on top.
Behind the Walgreens at 5720 W. Washington St. we found more prescription bottles and patient labels - the same type of information Walgreens said would not be going into the dumpster. We asked to speak with a manager and were told to wait. When someone finally came outside, she seemed more concerned about the fact that we parked in front of the dumpster than with the information we found inside it. We promised to move our car if they promised not to put any more customer records in the trash.
"That's fair," the manager said.
With that situation resolved, we checked a Walgreens at 3205 E. Washington St. After we found customer records in the dumpster there earlier this month, manager Dustin Waalkins told us it was an isolated incident.
"I have never seen open bottles like this in my dumpster before," he said then.
But when we revisited the same dumpster this week, you guessed it - more personal information and another promise thrown in the trash. This time, employees said Waalkins didn't want to come out. The store didn't even want to take back the customer information - including prescriptions for things like Oxycodone - that we found in the trash. So we took it to make sure it will all get shredded.
All together, we re-checked dumpsters at 10 local Walgreens stores, and six of them failed the privacy test again. That's six stores that continue to violate company policy and possibly federal law by throwing customers' private health records into an open dumpster.
We asked Marla Barger, a regional pharmacy supervisor for Walgreens, why it's still happening.
"Unfortunately this did happen," she said. "We apologize. We'll address the procedures and ensure they are followed in the future."
Barger said all store managers are now being re-trained on how to properly dispose of customer information. She also said the company does take customer privacy very seriously. But this around, when we asked about what we might find if we check back at Walgreens stores next month, we got no promises.
"I don't know, sir," Barger said. "I don't think I can answer that. I honestly don't know."
To find out how your neighborhood pharmacy did in our test, click here for an interactive map.