CVS, Rite Aid Sued for Selling Expired Medications, Food and Baby FormulaJun 13, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
The New York State Attorney General’s Office just announced it is initiating litigation against CVS and Rite Aid for selling expired over-the-counter products. The office conducted a three-month statewide investigation and found that 254 stores were selling over 600 over-the-counter products that had passed their expiration dates, including flu and cold medications, milk and eggs, and baby formula. The investigation revealed that some products expired over one year ago and that one Long Island store had a nondrowsy allergy product in stock that expired two years ago. Of the stores, 32 are on Long Island; 17 CVS and five Rite Aids in Nassau County; eight CVS and two Rite Aids in Suffolk County.
Although the investigation reviewed other stores, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said that CVS and Rite Aid drugstore chains represented "more of a threat to consumers in terms of numbers and frequency of expired products.” Cuomo added that, "With the cost-of-living going through the roof, we want to make sure consumers get what they pay for." Cuomo noted that such products may be "not just ineffective, but can be harmful as well" and said that the findings represent "a shameful disregard for public health." Asked whether he thought the error was intentional or just oversight, Cuomo said, "I don't have a sense of the motivation behind it. Frankly, I'm not all that interested in the motivation ... The law says you can't sell expired products to consumers." Cuomo does warn shoppers to look at product expiration dates saying, "The first consumer protection is the consumer."
Cheryl Slavinsky, director of public relations for Rite Aid said, in response, "We were told to make sure there is no such product on the shelf now. We are moving immediately across the nation to check all of our products." Slavinsky also said that a retraining program on related policies and procedures is being initiated adding, "We do take the allegations ... very seriously. Our policies have always been not to have outdated products on our shelves."
Likewise, CVS Officials assured that quick action would be taken. "Our policy is to remove items before they go beyond the expiration date," Mike DeAngelis, director of public relations at CVS, said. "We will work aggressively to ensure that our review and removal procedures are followed consistently in all of our stores. We value the trust our customers have placed in us to sell them products that are safe and effective, and the findings of New York's attorney general are unacceptable to us. ... We will cooperate fully with his office in this matter."
Meanwhile, Nassau County officials were thrilled with the investigation. "I'm in full support of what the attorney general is doing," said Roger C. Bogsted, commissioner of the Nassau County Office of Consumer Affairs who also said that in the past three weeks his office fined a number of local retailers a total of $58,000 for stocking expired products, including baby formula and over-the-counter medication. According to Bogsted, the issue is very challenging for seniors, who sometimes have difficulty reading the small print that indicates product expiration dates.