CVS Accused of Violating HIV-Positive Customers Right to Privacy

CVS is facing a class action lawsuit alleging the drug store chain’s insurance program intentionally violates HIV-positive consumers right to privacy.

Four anonymous plaintiffs filed the CVS HIV privacy class action lawsuit last week in California federal court, claiming that CVS gives them no other option but to purchase their HIV/AIDS medications at a CVS store or have the medications mailed to their homes, putting their privacy at risk. This is a result, according to the lawsuit, because CVS imposed certain coverage restrictions on prescription costs from out-of-network pharmacies.

One plaintiff details how he was left with no choice but to go along with CVS’ new insurance program, otherwise he would have had to pay over $2,000 for his HIV/AIDS medications had he purchased them elsewhere. The plaintiff claims that CVS’ business practices have forced him to choose his right to privacy over the cost of his necessary medications.

“The Program denies HIV/AIDS patients full and equal access to utilize the in-network pharmacies and method of delivery of their choice specifically because of the medications attributable to their illness, while at the same time permitting other enrollees to enjoy full access to the pharmacies of their choice,” the CVS HIV privacy class action lawsuit states.

Additionally, the plaintiffs contend that they were never given any notice to this change in coverage. One plaintiff noted that when he was forced to have his HIV/AIDS medications mailed to him, the package was left outside in the heat (medications can deteriorate in high temperatures) and where his neighbors could see. After this incident, the plaintiff opted to pick up his prescription at a CVS retail location, but claims the pharmacist had no detailed information of his medications.

“CVS Caremark does not have a full and accurate record of all of the medications JOHN DOE ONE is taking and cannot anticipate or warn against potential adverse drug interactions, which are common with HIV/AIDS Medications,” the CVS HIV privacy class action lawsuit alleges.

What’s worse is that many CVS pharmacy locations are not properly set up to protect customer’s privacy. Stand in a line at any CVS pharmacy and the majority of the time, you can eavesdrop on a discussion regarding medication instructions between the pharmacist and the customer.

“At my retail specialty pharmacy, they have a little alcove for privacy,” John Doe Two claims. “I can take my medications out and match it with a list I have of all my drugs. I can meet with my pharmacist and explain any changes I have felt and ask any questions I have. At CVS, I am within hearing distance of everyone waiting in line, including many people who do not have HIV/AIDS. I can hear other patients’ questions and the pharmacists’ answer. I am concerned with other people finding out about my HIV positive status.”

At the heart of this case is that by forcing customers who are HIV positive to purchase their medications through their pharmacies, CVS “effectively reduces the quality of prescription drug care provided to Class Members, and thus a reduction or elimination of benefits, by forcing enrollees to only obtain such medications through their sister co-conspirator and wholly-owned subsidiary.

The plaintiffs are represented by Alan Mansfield and Edith Kallas of Whatley Kallas LLP and Jerry Flanagan and Benjamin Powell of Consumer Watchdog.

The CVS HIV privacy class action lawsuit is John Doe One, et al. v. CVS Health Corp., et al., Case No. 3:18-cv-01031, filed  in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

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