The settlement concludes the lawsuit previously filed by the Attorney General in New York Supreme Court against CVS Pharmacy, Inc. for its pervasive sales of expired products and its breach of a prior settlement with the Attorney General in which it agreed to take measures to end such sales.
“New Yorkers should not have to worry that their neighborhood pharmacy is selling expired over-the-counter drugs that may be harmful to themselves or their families,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Today’s settlement with CVS and our past settlement with Rite Aid - which total approximately two million dollars - send the message that companies have a responsibility to put the safety of their customers ahead of boosting their profits.”
The agreement with CVS is the result of the Attorney General’s statewide, undercover investigation of all major drug store chains in New York State. The probe uncovered an egregious pattern at two of the largest chains: CVS and Rite Aid. Statewide, the Attorney General’s investigation revealed that 142 CVS and 112 Rite Aid stores in over 41 counties sold expired products. This reflects 60 percent of the CVS stores visited and 43 percent of the Rite Aid stores visited. At the CVS stores, undercover investigators found that some items were being sold more than two years past their expiration dates.
Subsequent inspections by the Attorney General revealed that both CVS and Rite Aid continued to sell expired products even after the Attorney General’s advisory. In December 2008, the Attorney General reached a $1.3 million settlement with Rite Aid, which had approximately 710 stores in New York State as of the date of the settlement. CVS has approximately 432 stores in New York State.
As part of its settlement agreement with the Attorney General’s office, CVS has agreed to pay $875,000 in penalties, costs, and fees. According to the agreement, CVS will refrain from selling expired products, commit to specific policies and procedures designed to prevent the sale of expired products, obtain approval from the Attorney General before making material changes to such policies and procedures, and train CVS employees in identifying and removing expired products from store shelves. CVS stores in New York will undergo internal compliance checks for expired products. Any CVS store that fails compliance checks will pay a penalty of $2,500 per store. The settlement also requires CVS to post notices reminding customers to check the expiration and “sell by” dates of over-the-counter drugs, infant formula, milk, and eggs in the aisles in which these products are sold.
Consumers who purchase and use expired over-the-counter drugs, infant formula, milk, and eggs may suffer serious, even life-threatening consequences. Once an over-the-counter drug has passed its expiration date, there is no assurance that it is safe to the consumer or effective for its intended uses. Infants and children are particularly susceptible to the health risks from using expired products, especially expired infant formula, since it may not contain the nutrient levels required for proper infant development.
The case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Mary Alestra and Laura J. Levine, under the supervision of Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau Chief Joy Feigenbaum and Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Michael Berlin.