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Complaints of Medication Errors Vanish from Walgreens Corporate Report

By Jack H. FarnbauchApril 2, 2020

Pharmacy employees at Walgreens told consultants late in 2019 that high levels of stress and “unreasonable” expectations had led them to make mistakes while filling prescriptions and to ignore some safety procedures. However, when the consultants went to present their findings at Walgreens’s corporate offices in February 2020, there was no reference to the errors and little mention of other concerns the employees had raised. The consultants were from Tata Consultancy Services and they were examining the company’s computer system for filling prescriptions.

That’s because senior leaders at Walgreens had directed the consultants to remove some damaging findings after seeing a draft of their presentation, a New York Times review of internal emails and chat logs, and two versions of the report.

In one instance, Amy Bixler, the director of pharmacy and retail operations at Walgreens, told the Tata consultants to delete a bullet point that mentioned how employees “sometimes skirted or completely ignored” proper procedures to meet corporate metrics, according to the chat logs and the draft report. A slide detailing “errors resulting from stress” was also removed. 

A Walgreens spokesman (Jim Cohn) has, not surprisingly, downplayed the need for the medication error findings in the presentation. The draft report, he said, included “information gathered through informal engagement with staff at a handful of stores.” Changes reflected in the final version were intended “to help ensure that the report appropriately focused on the most relevant aspects of the technology and user experience,” he said.

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