NCPA survey: Independent pharmacists want Congress to protect essential businesses from lawsuits

Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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Local pharmacists on the front lines battling the coronavirus pandemic worry they’re at risk of lawsuits that limit their ability to care for patients, according to a survey released today by the National Community Pharmacists Association.

“Pharmacy small business owners are vulnerable to this kind of litigation because they’ve been on the front lines taking care of patients even at great risk to themselves,” said NCPA CEO Doug Hoey. “That makes them targets for those who seek to make sure no good deed done during this pandemic goes unpunished.”

According to the survey, 72% of community pharmacists are concerned about being named in a COVID-19 lawsuit. Roughly 99.8% said Congress must protect them from liability in the next round of coronavirus legislation.

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“The wave of lawsuits is a lot more predictable than the virus,” said Hoey. “An independent pharmacy can be wiped out by a lawsuit even if the case is frivolous because of all the legal bills. Congress must not let that happen.”

NCPA and dozens of other groups are calling on Congress to pass legislation protecting pharmacies and other essential businesses from liability stemming from the public health emergency. They submitted a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to hold a hearing today on the issue, laying out their case. NCPA and its partners point out that the United States and many states already protect so-called Good Samaritans, including businesses, from litigation when they’re trying to do the right thing.

“Community pharmacists are critical health care providers,” said Hoey. “Many of them are the only health care providers in their communities. They are providing vital, life-saving services during a crucial time. Protecting them from gotcha-type lawsuits should be an urgent priority for Congress.”

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Hoey said that community pharmacies are already taking great precautions to protect their patients, their employees, and themselves against the virus, including curbside service and drive-thru service, expanding home delivery, installing plexiglass barriers, wearing personal protection equipment, and not accepting cash.

Hoey also noted that the Department of Homeland Security has declared pharmacies part of the country’s critical health care infrastructure, and they must remain open during a pandemic. “None of that will deter slip-and-fall lawyers from dragging them into court for a big payday or a quick settlement,” Hoey said.

Hoey continued, “With all of the uncertainty surrounding this crisis, the one thing we all know for sure is that the trial lawyers are circling. Congress should preempt this opportunism before it destroys critical local health care providers.”

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The NCPA litigation survey was sent to 8,000 independent pharmacy owner/mangers from May 11 -12. The results are based on 614 responses.