TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- CVS Caremark will pay New Jersey $650,000 and improve its quality assurance and oversight under an agreement that resolves incidents where CVS pharmacies mistakenly commingled patients' pills.
The discoveries came to light when the state began investigating the company. That came after a CVS pharmacy in Chatham had mistakenly distributed breast cancer drugs to children instead of giving them fluoride pills they were prescribed. Officials have said only a few children ingested the pills, and no injuries related to the mix-up were reported.
During the subsequent investigation, CVS provided details on four other mix-ups involving various medications, which all occurred in March 2012 at pharmacies in Cherry Hill, Budd Lake, Rahway and Scotch Plains.
"In order to protect the public and prevent these errors from happening again, the state's Consumer Affairs Division pushed CVS to work with us on an effective solution," state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said Monday. "As a result, CVS has already begun to enhance its quality and safety assurance measures."
Noting that such errors are "a very rare occurrence," the company said an internal investigation determined that they occurred due to human error and deviation from the company's "stringent" quality and safety procedures.
To help prevent such errors from occurring again, CVS has retrained its staff and enhanced the oversight and quality assurance measures at its New Jersey pharmacies. That should provide closer monitoring to ensure prescriptions are filled accurately, before they are dispensed, officials said.
The company will also give consumers additional resources to check the accuracy of their medication. For example, the CVS website will provide color images of medications and offer a personalized prescription profile for each customer.
The state will use the $650,000 payment from CVS to help fund a public campaign to educate consumers on how to check and learn more about their medications and encourage them to ask a pharmacist when they have questions. It also will help make the public aware of the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
"The agreement with New Jersey acknowledges our continued commitment to enforcing our enhanced procedures, and reflects the joint commitment to public safety and the safe and accurate filling of prescriptions," Mike DeAngelis, CVS's director of public relations, told The Associated Press.
Based in Woonsocket, R.I., CVS Caremark operates 7,458 drugstores in the United States.