(CN) – A group of HIV-positive plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against pharmacy giant CVS and its subsidiaries in federal court Friday, claiming that the company’s pharmacy insurance plan violated their privacy by forcing them to purchase HIV/AIDS medication at CVS retail stores or have them mailed to their homes.
The lawsuit, filed by four John Doe plaintiffs in the Northern District of California, claims that CVS Caremark stopped covering their prescription costs at out-of network pharmacies, along with other restrictions. As a result, the plaintiffs have had to compromise their privacy, according to the lawsuit. A similar lawsuit was filed in the Central District of California the same day.
According to one of the plaintiffs, he was forced to accept the program because he was running low on his month’s supply of medications, which would have cost him more than $2,000 out-of-pocket if he purchased it at his local pharmacy.
“I received no written notice to prepare for this impending policy change,” John Doe One said in the lawsuit. “I had to scramble into action since I only had a seven-day supply remaining.”
He purchased a three-month supply to be delivered to his home, only to discover that the delivery came during the day while he was at work, “baking in the afternoon sun.” Storage at high temperatures can degrade the medications, the lawsuit states. Additionally, the medications were left out for his neighbors to see, risking both his privacy and possible theft.
After that, John Doe One decided to pick up his medications at a CVS store instead. Whereas his local pharmacy had accurate records of the medications he takes, the lawsuit said the CVS pharmacist had no such information. Additionally, the medications are filled at a remote location and not at the pharmacy. Plaintiffs are asked to go to the CVS pharmacy to pick up the shipment.
“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 lawsuit states.
According to the lawsuit, the company incentivizes employers to enroll their employees in the program, and names Amtrak as a defendant. Additionally, the lawsuit states that the plaintiffs have concern over their privacy when picking up medications at the stores.
“At my retail specialty pharmacy, they have a little alcove for privacy,” John Doe Two said in the lawsuit. “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.”
The plaintiffs say they’ve been forced to stick with the program because they can’t afford the out-of-pocket expenses for the medications. When asked if they could opt-out of the CVS Caremark program, they were either denied or ignored, according to the lawsuit.
One of the plaintiffs called CVS Caremark “more than 20 times” to try to opt-out, but was denied.
The lawsuit said that by forcing HIV/AIDS patients to purchase their medications through CVS pharmacies, the company “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.”
According to the lawsuit, CVS Caremark’s business practices specifically target HIV/AIDS patients.
“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 lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs are represented by Alan Mansfield of Whatley Kallas LLP. Calls made to Mansfield and CVS Caremark were not immediately returned.
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