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CVS Pharmacist Won’t Chip In $1.99 For An Inhaler?

October 17, 2010 · 90 comments

in Commentary

So picture this: You are having an asthma attack and desperately need your prescription for your inhaler refilled at CVS.  Your partner goes to the counter to pay for your medicine, but is about two dollars short.  The attack is so bad,  you end up on the floor, and your partner is trying desperately to come up with the money to pay for the medicine.  He offers his cell phone to the pharmacist as ‘collateral’ and promises to return immediately after the episode is over with the two bucks.  However, the request for medicine is DENIED.

This is exactly what happened at a CVS store in New Jersey the other day, according to Fox News.

In the end, the couple called a friend who is a paramedic, and he came to the store and gave the poor woman help.  Can you imagine how dumb that pharmacist must have looked?  A paramedic was treating his customer, and he was just standing behind the counter, holding the cure to her attack?

What in the world was this pharmacist thinking?  The customer had a prescription refill, so it wasn’t like he would have been illegally dispensing medicine.  He could have just ‘loaned’ the money to her from his wallet.  Where is the humanity?  It makes you wonder how good this pharmacist really is at his job if he cares so little for his ‘patients’.

My question is, where were all the Good Samaritans of the world?  My gosh, if I saw that woman suffering, I would have just given my credit card and paid for the whole thing myself.  I had an asthma attack the other night that was so bad, I would have paid a thousand dollars for an inhaler.  I cannot imagine how awful this poor woman felt.

I don’t know what will happen to this pharmacist, if anything.  However, I am guessing it is ultimately going to cost him a lot more than $1.99.   Especially if you can put a price on pride, friendships, etc.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Squirrelers.com October 17, 2010 at 10:04 am

That’s shameful of the pharmacist. He should have just let the guy have it for less, and documented the situation. Of course, maybe he was under strict orders to never accept less payment. Maybe he could have lost his job? All pure speculation and I have no idea if that’s the case. Just a possibility.

Anyway, bottom line is that he should have helped. This reminds of the recent story where a house burned down and the fire department didn’t help because the owner hadn’t paid a $75 fee.

If my views make me a bleeding heart in these cases so be it. Basic emergency help shouldn’t be provided based on ability to pay.


Kris October 17, 2010 at 5:40 pm

It reminded me of the fire story too! I don’t know how the pharmacist could have been stopped from throwing two of his own dollars into the till, nobody would have even had to have known. I am just glad I am not married to that pharmacist- what a cold heart!


The Saved Quarter October 17, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Horrible, horrible. I too have asthma and I can’t imagine being in that situation, where for $2 the lifesaving medicine is withheld. TWO DOLLARS! Ridiculous!

Squirrelers, I was reminded of the house – and the pets inside – burned down for the $75 fee as well. I’m with you, that emergency services shouldn’t be withheld based on payment. I already knew I was a bleeding heart, though. 😉


Kris October 17, 2010 at 5:41 pm

I am a bleeding heart too!! I would have been begging every patron in the store for money, that is for sure.


Aloysa October 17, 2010 at 1:45 pm

This is insane! A person could have died for $2! Where is the world going and what is wrong with people? I would have handed the inhaler for free just to help. He should be fired!


Kris October 17, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Aloysa- I agree. I also wonder what all the other people that were shopping there that day thinking. Are people just too afraid to get involved anymore?


Roshawn @ Watson Inc October 17, 2010 at 2:07 pm

…very sad story indeed.


Khaleef @ KNS Financial October 17, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Wow, this definitely is a sad story. Like you, I would have just paid for it myself if I was in the store when that happened!

I guess I wasn’t the only one who was reminded of the house that burned down over $75.


Kay Lynn Akers October 17, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Unbelievable! I’m glad the paramedics got there in time and there wasn’t any loss of life.

You just wonder what’s wrong with people!


youngandthrifty October 17, 2010 at 6:51 pm

UGh… this is so sad!

Maybe that pharmacist was new? But still that’s no excuse.

What has the world come to now!? 🙁


Kris October 18, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Young and Thrifty – It has hard to know exactly what the motivation was to withhold the medicine. I sure hope there is an amazing reason that I cannot grasp. Otherwise, my faith in humanity will drop even more!


Crystal @ BFS October 17, 2010 at 9:13 pm

That’s disgusting. I would have paid for their prescription and then taken all of the pharmacist’s info for the barrage of bad press I’d be spreading after notifying their boss and the company as a whole of his or her stupidity. What a complete, disgusting, idiot…


Kris October 18, 2010 at 12:04 pm

BFS – You could even write a blog post about it! 🙂


elroy October 18, 2010 at 3:35 am

As a pharmacist, this story both intrigues me and frustrates me.
Most of my frustration stems from all the outcries of inhumanity by CVS or this specific pharmacist, based on this one sided article from only the couple’s point of view.
Every pharmacist and technician in retail pharmacy have been in this situation and tend to work with the patient for the sake of patient/pharmacy relationship.
100% of pharmacists are not cold blooded, sadistic people acting simply over the shortage of money at the end of the day.

There’s simply way too many facts missing in the story so far.
Her patient confidentiality will likely prevent us from knowing what kind of historical relationship she had as a regular customer who lived around the corner. For instance, is she misusing her inhalers, using them well beyond safe doses? Was she counseled on her use and the dangers of overuse by those same pharmacists? Did she not know that if she is experiencing a daily attack, she should act accordingly?
If she’s been experiencing this for days as the boyfriend stated, her condition is not being treated optimally and more rescue inhaler use will worsen her condition and potentially lead to cardiac issues.

I am sure no pharmacist will endanger a life over <$2.00…
Pending litigation and investigation, CVS probably wont offer any comments at this time either.

Yes, some Rph's are jerks or have chips on their shoulder on the other side of the counter, but we face a bigger punishment by State Boards or the chain pharmacy management by letting one die as opposed to losing 2 bucks. There's too much not known on this specific case by the public and we need to let all the facts come to light before slamming the store or its workers.


Kris October 18, 2010 at 8:38 am

Thank you for commenting Elroy.

Unfortunately, all we can do is base opinions on the information provided. Since there was a refill available for the prescription (or at least reportedly was..), it makes it appear that the only reason the pharmacist withheld the medicine was because of the 2 dollars. I am not a lawyer, but I would think that as long as there was a legitimate prescription, the pharmacist had to provide the medicine. (Not pay for it, but issue it.) It is possible her asthma was poorly controlled, but I actually would think it would be worse if the pharmacist withheld medicine when the woman was truly struggling because he felt she was not treating her asthma properly. People can die from asthma attacks, and the only cure for a severe asthma attack is medicine. If he was worried about her health management, he could have kicked in the two bucks, given her an inhaler, and then had a serious discussion with her about her health care. Making a point by withholding medicine would be the worst thing you could do in this case.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I personally do not think less of pharmacists in general. I just thought this one pharmacist was a bad example of humanity, not pharmacists.

I too am curious to see the reaction from CVS.


Money Reasons October 18, 2010 at 6:26 am

It seems like some people just get into professions for the money anymore. They treat the people coming to the pharmacy like cattle…

Sad huh…


Kris October 18, 2010 at 12:03 pm

MR – Well, you know my feelings about the Walgreen’s pharmacist worker I came across. Maybe they do come across so many deadbeats that they are just hardened? I don’t know.


The Biz of Life October 18, 2010 at 9:12 am

All the bad publicity was worth more than $1.99, a lot more….. not to mention saving a life. That is one time when the rules should be broken, and the store employees should take the initiative.


Kris October 18, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Biz – I am sure the pharmacist could have just paid with his own money and nobody would have been the wiser. It is amazing how the ‘human’ part of the pharmacist got lost. Or, perhaps there are circumstances we are not aware of. Based on what I have read though, this pharmacist pretty much screwed up.


First Gen American October 18, 2010 at 11:36 am

It does seem a cold blooded thing to do, but would your opinion change if you learned that this pharmacy has people walking into it 50 times a day with people who are short on cash for they’re medication? I can imagine in tougher neighborhoods, that might happen a lot.

What if word gets out that there’s a good Samaritan pharmacist giving away free medication. Now where do you draw the line? Do you let granny have her heart meds even though she’s $5 short? What about the sick kid hacking up a lung?

I’ve seen some really rough people (I think homeless) get into arguments with pharmacists about stuff like that and I feel bad for the pharmacist more than the person needing the meds. Just a month ago, there was a guy who needed an ER visit and he refused to give the nurses his Social Security number or name and he was being belligerent about it. They were very polite to him, but he was mad that he couldn’t get admitted. You have to imagine that not everyone health professionals have to deal with are civilized and honest. It’s gotta be rough sometimes.


Kris October 18, 2010 at 11:59 am

Sandy – I am sure there are plenty of scam artists out there. However, since the boyfriend offered to leave his cell phone and other items with the pharmacist while he went to get the two dollars tells me that it was not a scam. Again, I keep wondering where all the other customers were in this mess.

If it were a request for allergy medicine or something, I would be more understanding on the pharmacists part. Maybe it is because I am asthmatic that I have more sympathy for this patient.


Kaycee October 18, 2010 at 8:12 pm

I don’t give a rat’s @$$ what the pharmacist’s previous interatction(s) with the woman are/were. She was in OBVIOUS medical distress. It was $2. What if she had died?? Whoopee, he could comfort hiself with the fact that at least he stood his ground! @@ Idiot!


Kris October 18, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Kaycee – I really have no idea how that pharmacist just stood there and watched. It would be fascinating if there was a camera there that had recorded the incident. I don’t want to see the woman suffer, I just want to see the interaction between the boyfriend and pharmacist.


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