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The Denver Post Story: Walgreens locations in Denver impacted by nationwide walkouts by pharmacists over work conditions

At the end of September, CVS pharmacists also staged walk outs over similar issues

By MEGAN ULU-LANI BOYANTON | [email protected] | The Denver Post
PUBLISHED: October 10, 2023 at 3:15 p.m. | UPDATED: October 11, 2023 at 9:25 a.m.

In this June 25, 2018, file photo shows a Walgreens store in Peoria, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

In this June 25, 2018, file photo shows a Walgreens store in Peoria, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Walgreens counts as the latest chain of pharmacies to delay its customers due to staffing shortages and walkouts by pharmacists over work conditions.

Patrons in the Denver area dealt with disruptions like longer wait times and drive-thru closures this week as thousands of Walgreens employees walked off of the job on Monday around the country to protest their work conditions, including understaffing, multiple national outlets report. The walkouts are set to last through Wednesday.

The drugstore corporation, which runs close to 100 locations throughout the Denver area, counts as the nation’s second-largest player in the pharmacy industry, falling only behind CVS. At the end of September, CVS pharmacists also staged walkouts over similar issues.

“A small number of our pharmacies experienced disruptions, no more than a dozen, and we apologize for any inconvenience,” said Walgreens spokesperson Fraser Engerman in an email. With nearly 9,000 locations, he pointed to “only one” closed due to workplace disruption.

At a time of year with the highest rates of respiratory illnesses and seasonal vaccinations, the team at Walgreens understands “the immense pressures felt across the U.S. in retail pharmacy right now,” Engerman wrote. “We are making significant investments in pharmacist wages and hiring bonuses to attract/retain talent in harder to staff locations.”

For CVS locations in Denver, “we’re not seeing any unusual activity regarding unplanned pharmacy closures,” said spokesperson Amy Thibault in an email. “We’re focused on developing a sustainable, scalable action plan to support both our pharmacists and our customers, that can be put in place in markets where support may be needed so we can continue delivering the high-quality care our patients depend on.”

On Tuesday at noon, five patrons queued for the pharmacy at the Walgreens location at 2000 E. Colfax Ave. in Denver, with two more sitting down to wait.

Standing at the end, Denver resident Alex Carrington noted the abnormality of the situation. “Usually, there’s no line,” he said.

At the Walgreens at 360 S. Colorado Blvd. in Glendale, both the drive-thru and consultation window for the pharmacy were closed on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. (Photo by Megan Ulu-Lani Boyanton)

At the Walgreens at 360 S. Colorado Blvd. in Glendale, both the drive-thru and consultation window for the pharmacy were closed on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. (Photo by Megan Ulu-Lani Boyanton)

At the Walgreens at 360 S. Colorado Blvd. in Glendale, both the drive-thru and consultation window for the pharmacy were closed, with four customers waiting inside. And, at the Walgreens at 120 N. Broadway in Denver, eight people lingered to speak to the pharmacist.

For Denver resident Meaghan Kennedy, the holdup came as no surprise.

“I was here a few months ago, and they were actually shut down because they were so short-staffed,” she said. “I was crossing my fingers. I was like, ‘I really hope they’re not shut down this time.'”

“Exhausted from working my schedule”

The Colorado Pharmacists Society backs the moves by pharmacists and pharmacy staff, and plans to release data from its workplace conditions statewide survey soon. It points to the demands of the profession as “substantial and ever-increasing.”

“The news of pharmacists leaving their jobs in other cities, saying ‘enough’, and walking away, is truly a sign of desperation coming from professionals who, although committed to a lifetime of helping patients, found themselves needing to take a stand,” the organization wrote in a Sept. 29 statement.

President Lisa Nguyen declined to comment on which stores are impacted or how long the walkouts will last.

Nathan McConnell, a former pharmacist at City Market, remembers being “exhausted from working my schedule” to the point that it led to mental health issues like panic attacks. He worked as a manager at the store at 1001 Thompson Road in Granby, and estimates that his schedule spanned more than 50 hours weekly.

“I was spending so much time at the pharmacy because we’re so understaffed,” he said in a phone interview. “All of the responsibility falls on the pharmacist to get things done — and, ultimately, on the pharmacy manager.”

He’s since reached out to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about his situation, which includes issues with higher-ups, and hired a lawyer to pursue legal avenues.

“We remain committed to staffing our pharmacies as we work together to provide quality care for our patients,” a King Soopers spokesperson said in an email.

See full article here.


Denver7 Story: Colorado Walgreens customers face prescription delays amid reports of national walkouts

Colorado Pharmacists Society supports walkouts

By: Jaclyn Allen Posted at 6:15 PM, Oct 09, 2023 and last updated 8:04 AM, Oct 10, 2023

DENVER — Denver7 Investigates is hearing from some Colorado Walgreens customers who can't get their prescriptions because of short-staffed pharmacies. This comes amid national reports of a Walgreens walkout running Monday through Wednesday this week.

A steady stream of drivers outside a Loveland Walgreens drive-through found out no one was at the window Monday, reading a sign that blamed staffing issues. Inside the store, the pharmacy was shuttered with signs saying a pharmacist would be there at 2 p.m.

"No pharmacists. So my prescription is essentially being held hostage," said Vicki Pesce, who added her doctor sent her prescription there Friday afternoon. "Friday evening, no pharmacist was here. It was closed on Saturday. I came on Sunday, and no pharmacist was there. Here I am now, day four, and I can't get my medications."

We called another Walgreens location in Fort Collins, and the voicemail said the pharmacy was closed for the day there, as well.

Sources said the Colorado stores are not known to be part of the nationally reported Walgreens walkout, but the Colorado Pharmacists Society supports the measures.

"The pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are being asked to do more and more with less staff," said Lisa Nguyen, the CPS president, who added that the issues are not just with Walgreens, but industry wide. CVS strikes made headlines last month.

"At some point, something has to give," said Nguyen, who added overworked staff members could lead to dangerous situations. "And what is it going to be? Is it going to be patient safety? Is it going to be their mental well-being and their physical well-being?"

Walgreens released a statement to Denver7 Investigates:

A small number of our pharmacies are experiencing disruptions and we apologize for any inconvenience. We are working to return these pharmacies to regular operations as quickly as possible. Nearly all of our 9,000 locations continue to serve our patients and customers.

Our pharmacy teams work tirelessly to serve our communities — from administering life-saving vaccines, to helping patients receive prescriptions and health screenings — especially this time of year, during which we see some of the highest rates of respiratory illnesses and seasonal vaccinations.

The last few years have required an unprecedented effort from our team members, and we share their pride in this work — while recognizing it has been a very challenging time.

We also understand the immense pressures felt across the U.S. in retail pharmacy right now.

We are engaged and listening to the concerns raised by some of our team members. We are committed to ensuring that our entire pharmacy team has the support and resources necessary to continue to provide the best care to our patients while taking care of their own wellbeing. We are making significant investments in pharmacist wages and hiring bonuses to attract/retain talent.

Eventually Monday afternoon, Pesce's pharmacy did open, and she received her prescriptions, but the ordeal has opened her eyes to the problem.

"If I were to need this medication, I would end up in the ER. If it were my other medication, my seizure medication, it could be disastrous," she said, adding that she supports the walkouts. "There needs to be a very bright light shined on this to bring attention to the fact that these employees need help."

See full article here.


CPS is Pleased to Announce the 2023 Award Recipients


Distinguished Young Pharmacist Award


Alison Betten



NASPA Excellence in Innovation Award


Holly Rabideau



NCPA Leadership Award and McKesson Leadership Award

Lisa Nguyen



Pharmacist of the Year

Jennifer M. Biltoft




Student Pharmacist of the Year

Kennedy Drew




Pharmacy Technician of the Year

Summer Stevenson





Bowl of Hygeia Community Service Award

Connie Valdez




Friends of Pharmacy Legislative Award

Senator Sonya Jaquez Lewis





Senator Perry Will




Representative Iman Jodeh




Denver7 Story: 'Coloradans, pharmacies feel impact of Adderall shortage'

Patients calling multiple pharmacies to find ADHD medication
By: Jaclyn Allen | Posted at 6:14 PM, Oct 11, 2022 and last updated 11:23 PM, Oct 11, 2022

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — A nationwide shortage of Adderall and its generic versions is hitting Colorado patients and their pharmacies hard.

For weeks, Daryl Linley, a Wheat Ridge resident, has been rationing the medication he needs to treat his attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) while he calls one pharmacy after the next to try to fill his prescription.

"I've had to call multiple pharmacies. And quite often they won't talk to me," Linley said. "It's like the feeling when you first wake up in the morning, and you can't quite think, except all day long for me without it. It really affects my life

As a policy, Wheat Ridge Professional Pharmacy does not dispense Adderall to new patients, saving the limited supply for established clients. But people are still calling every day to find the drug.

"I've had seven calls today, and I just talked to someone. She says it's been three weeks since I've had my medication," said Jenna Eccles, the pharmacy manager at Wheat Ridge Professional Pharmacy. "What we're finding is these patients have no information of what's happening."

What's happening is a perfect storm:

Manufacturing — Seven of the nine companies that make Adderall have announced shortages, possibly tied to labor issues.
Supply — Because of the opioid crisis, wholesale drug suppliers face new limits on the amount of controlled substances they can send to pharmacies, which is having an impact, according to the Colorado Pharmacist Society.
Demand — After the pandemic rise of telehealth visits, there has been a dramatic increase in ADHD diagnoses and prescriptions.

"Unfortunately, this leads to the pharmacy shuffle. And that's not good for patients either. What we're seeing is if they can't get it at one pharmacy, they're being sent to another pharmacy," said Emily Zadvorny with the Colorado Pharmacist Society, who said pharmacists are bearing the brunt of anger from desperate patients. "There's not a quick and dirty solution. I don't recommend turning to the virtual [pharmacies] because that's actually fueling this problem." 

Read full article and see interview with CPS Executive Director, Emily Zadvorny.


Denver7 Story: 'My prescription was in purgatory': Pharmacy staff shortages leave Coloradans without medicine

DENVER — It's a worker shortage that could be bad for your health. Our Contact Denver7 team keeps hearing from people desperate to get the medicine they need but struggling to get prescriptions filled.

The bottom line is Colorado needs more pharmacists and pharmacy techs, but, until then, patients are paying the price.

When Christina Cimino couldn't stop coughing last Friday, she went to urgent care. They called in a prescription to her local Walgreens in Northglenn. 

"I go to call them to check if my prescription is ready Friday night, and the pharmacy is closed," Cimino said. "I'm like, 'You got to be kidding me.' So, I call again — pharmacy is closed."

It turns out that her Walgreens posted new hours, and it was closed at 6 p.m. Friday and for the entire weekend. On top of that, she said they could not transfer her prescription to another Walgreens.

"My prescription was in purgatory. They see it in the system, but they can't release it because it's a narcotic. It's stuck at this particular location," Cimino said. "So, I spent the whole weekend coughing my brains out, and, honestly, I just want to breathe. I really just want to breathe."

Read full article and see interview with CPS Executive Director, Emily Zadvorny.

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