Children’s Medication Mixed-Up With Cancer Drugs At CVS Pharmacy In N.J.

Experts Try To Temper Cause For Alarm; Customers Read Company Riot Act

CHATHAM, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A New Jersey pharmacy is under fire for mixing children’s medication with cancer drugs. The medication mix-up is raising concerns about how people can protect themselves when placing a prescription.

WCBS 880’s Sean Adams On The Story

Sandy Jones said she couldn’t believe there was a major medication mix-up at her longtime CVS pharmacy in Chatham.

“I’m surprised because I’ve been coming here for many years, I’ve never had an issue. But that’s really serious,” Jones told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez on Thursday night.

CVS pharmacy said its Chatham location may have given as many as 50 families the breast cancer fighting drug Tamoxifen, instead of fluoride tablets, for children over the last 60 days.

“I’m gonna think twice about doing my medications here. I’ll tell you that,” said customer Mike Riccone.

“It’s pretty awful. To give kids that? It’s scary actually. It’s really scary,” customer Christen Simmons said.

CVS apologized for the mistake in a written statement and said: “… most of the families we have spoken to did not indicate that their children received any incorrect pills. We will continue to follow up with families who believe that their children may have ingested incorrect medication.”

Pharmacist Derek Lorenzo of Tiffany Natural Pharmacy in Westfield showed CBS 2 how a fluoride pill looks almost exactly like Tamoxifen.

“Unless it happened for an extended period of time, the child should be fine,” Lorenzo said. “To have that many mix-ups for that many months it sounds like something happened on the manufacturing line.”

CVS said it has inventory measures to keep similar pills apart. It is investigating how the mix-up happened.

“It’s their job to get it right the first time, every time. You can’t have margin of error when people’s lives are in the balance,” said customer Mike Snyder.

So far, there have not been any reports of children getting sick.  CVS said it is taking every precaution to ensure nothing like this happens again.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below. …

  • Burt

    The general public has no idea how bad it is there. The employee’s are under extreme pressure and distress. Should the Pharmacist have caught this of course. But 50 scripts it wasn’t just one pharmacist. The corporate greed at the company is beyond belief. It is impossible to keep your job and also keep the public safe. I worked there as a lead tech for a long time. I know. No one is trying to hurt anyone. It is just not possile to do so much more with less. And it is only going to get worse. they just took over Medco and the employees weren’t trained or even told.They do not care about the employees or the patients just money. Only the stock holders!

    • Ozzie West

      This sounds like the kind of thing that might happen if tamoxifen were added to the fluoride bin in the robo pill counter. Most high volume pharmacies have these robodruggist devices. Prints the label, counts the pills, sticks the label on and presents the completed Rx vial for the final check.
      No mention of a robodruggist device in these stories? Typical slipshop media work here in the reporting process. While the RPh is the final quality control person on this process, this sounds like to robot error to me. A person would make this mistake one time. The robot just keeps doing it.

      Once you get the wrong pills in one of the 250 or so bins in the robot, out the door they go. There is s a final check on the pills, but not each and every pill, just each vial for each prescription.

      It is virtually impossible that the fluorides and tamoxifen got mixed up by the manufacturer.

      It is coming to the point where most Rx’es are actually filled by the robot at high volume stores and about 100% from your Mail Order Rx Mill.

  • Cvs don't care

    True story. My husband yelled at a tech (basically a photo-clerk,with a white jacket) for filling numerous Rx’s wrong.
    The tech felt he “embarrassed ” her & complained to the supervisor.
    Did the tech get in trouble?????
    NO, CVS fired my husband on the spot for yelling at her…….

    Think carefully, next time you get a Rx filled.

    • Burt

      It’s not the techs fault!!!!!!!!!!!

      • RPhTex

        Yes, it is the tech’s fault! If a “Certified Pharmacy Technician” presents a mis-filled
        prescription to a Pharmacist for final review (the step before the RX is handed to the patient), the tech has *filled* the prescription incorrectly. It is the job of the Pharmacist to catch the error, correct it, and take corrective measures with the tech that made the error. Yelling, however, is not a professional corrective measure. As a Pharmacist, I completely understand the frustration of being “set up” by a less than competent tech. Follow store policy to discipline incompetence

  • Mike R

    I’m now done with getting prescriptions from this company.
    Problem is how many mistakes were made in the past that are unknow?? Did cancer patients get floride pills??? I hope not

    I’m buying local, back to Liberty Drug

  • Terkath

    As for the prescription mix at the Chatham N J CVS it is important to note that the tomoxifen was mixed in with the floride. For a 90 day prescription filled in Dec.when checked in Feb with 40 pills remaining there were 35floride pills and 5 tomoxiphen.

    • Burt

      Oh that’s comforting.

  • Kh

    Cvs should give their pharmacists enough help so that they can function as a pharmacist and not a cashier and phone operator. Everyone wants their prescription fast and with the expectation that will be no errors. Pharmacists are rushed and have several steps to complete that the public doesn’t think about. We spend countless hours on the phone, talking to doctors and insurance companies. Prescriptions should be filled accurately and the pharmacist should be given the tools and help required to have the time to do their job without constant distractions.

    • 'bout time they get caught

      Yeah,too bad all CVS cares about profit, not your health.
      They also bring in a lot of foreign “pharmacists”, who are not vetted properly.
      Use an independent Pharmacy when you can.

  • Jen

    I filled a fluoride prescription for my daughter on February 2nd which was within that time period. I never received a call even though the CVS spokesperson said they called all families who had a prescription filled during that time. I found out through the news and when I called CVS I was told I didn’t receive a call because mine was “looked into and determined to be filled correctly”. First of all, why should I trust that when you made this big mistake in the first place. And secondly, why did you lie and not call all the parents. Regardless of if any child wouldn’t eat it, parents should’ve been notified and advised what the pills look like an confirm that all was ok. CVS made a mistake and is now lying about it.

  • HRD

    @Derek….true you may not “count” but it is your responsibility to see that the right drug, in the right dose, gets to the right patient. This is in addition to the other responsibilities that you list above. Who was checking whom in this scenario? Also, are you stating that an error, however rare, could not be returned? True, it cannot be put back in stock but I have never heard of anyone not accepting a return on an Rx when the pharmacy made the error. Having worked at Tiffany Drugs when I was a student in pharmacy school in the ’60s and as a pharmacist at an independent pharmacy in Chatham in the ’70s, and currently doing relief work at independent Rx in PA, I am well aware of the pressures involved as a dispensing pharmacist.

    • Amber

      HRD – I think they can’t take back the pills after you leave the store because you could remove the true pills from the bottle, replace with something else and claim you didn’t get the pills which, if they re-dispense, allows you to get double your prescription.
      That may not be 100% accurate but I was under the impression this type of potential fraud is why you can’t return once you walk away.
      That said though this and their multiple billing/co-pay errors are why I stopped using CVS a long time ago. Found a pharmacy that treats me well and doesn’t (sor far) make mistakes. Plus they charge co-pay OR cost and don’t jack up their prices so if cost is $12 for 90 pills thats what I pay where CVS charges full co-pay for each 30 day supply and same item cost me $45.

    • RPhTex

      Every pharmacy I’ve managed or staffed sequestered (as an outdate) or physically destroyed any meds that left the pharmacy and were brought back for ANY reason. I’m old enough to remember the Tylenol Capsule scare of the 70’s…. That’s a risk I am not willing to take!

  • Greg

    “The known, serious side effects of tamoxifen are blood clots, strokes, uterine cancer, and cataracts.” National Cancer Institute

    What about body weight difference between child and adult?
    Is this not overdosing as well?

  • Deb

    whnever I have a prescription filled for ANYTHING the first thting I do when I get home is take a pill out of the container and google it – the name of the medicine and any letters or numberw written on the pill, I double check to make sure that what is written on the bottle, what my dr has said is to be prescribed is actually the same thing I have been given – generic or otherwise. Everyone should do this….thier is always room for human error , why leave it up to chance, plus it just gives you the added piece of mind in a pretty easy step!

    • Bklyn mom

      Actually, you should check the bottle even before you leave the pharmacy!


    If the pills got mix up which is most unforttunate then the parents should take the children for a medical check up to make sure they are ok best luck to both parties

    • Derek

      The children who received the tamoxifen should be fine. That’s considering they didn’t it spit it out when they attempted to chew on an anticipated chewable, flavored fluoride supplement. But still this does not underestimate the effect of potential medication errors. Had this been a potent painkiller, strong sedative, or different chemotherapeutic agent, then the outcomes could’ve been fatal.

  • Esmerelda

    The pills may look the same, but why would they be loose ?
    Arent they in labeled bottles ?
    Are people supposed to check the pills in the pharmacy ?
    What is the pharnacist there for then ?

    • Derek

      The pills may look the same, but why would they be loose?
      I’m not sure what you mean by “loose” but there is obvious transfer between stock bottles of medications to and from individual patient vials, manual counting trays, counting machines (with or without bar code scanning), unit-dose packaging machines and loading robots. Loose pills found on the floor are immediately discarded according to pharmacy regulations.

      Aren’t they in labeled bottles?
      Correct. All medications, by law, are required to be labeled with the drug name and strength, in addition to a lot number and expiration date.

      Are people supposed to check the pills in the pharmacy?
      Are you referring to the patient picking up their medication? If that’s the case then it would be a smart thing to always check your own medication before you leave the pharmacy. Once the medication leaves the pharmacy, it cannot be returned.

      What is the pharnacist there for then?
      To ensure patients don’t die. Most of the time, pharmacists do not count pills. We ensure patients are treated appropriately based on current medical and safety guidelines. We educate and counsel patients on their medications, in addition to their general health, medical conditions, troubling side effects, etc. We ensure deadly drug interactions don’t occur and check and double check every dosing and calculation. We communicate with physicians and other prescribers on concerns about medications as well as offer treatment guidance and advise. We work together with pharmacy technicians and other employees that may handle patient medications to ensure that the correct medication eventually reaches the correct patient. Our main objective is to maximize positive therapeutic outcomes while minimizing morbidity and mortality, in addition to minimizing or treating any adverse drug reactions that may occur.

  • mrstag

    That’s why they always tell you to check your prescriptions before you even leave the store to make sure it’s the correct one.

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