TRENTON, N.J. — The state attorney general’s office has begun a preliminary investigation into a CVS pharmacy’s mistaken distribution of pills for the treatment of breast cancer to children instead of the fluoride pills that were prescribed.
The attorney general’s consumer affairs division on Friday ordered a CVS pharmacy in Chatham to explain the mistake and provide the names of all its employees along with all emails, telephone calls, complaints, and other information related to the mix-up.
The pharmacy must provide the information by Wednesday and company representatives must appear before division officials for questioning under oath, an order signed by division Director Thomas R. Calcagni said.
Meanwhile, CVS Caremark said in a statement that it was “deeply sorry for the mistake that occurred” at its pharmacy in northeastern New Jersey, although the company did not explain how the mistake happened. There has been no report of injury.
Calcagni’s administrative order said the pharmacy acknowledged it improperly dispensed the breast cancer fighting drug Tamoxifen instead of chewable fluoride tablets to children in as many as 50 families between Dec. 1, 2011, and Feb. 20. Calcagni said in the order that the division wants to look into whether any laws were violated.
Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay and is usually prescribed by dentists for children. Tamoxifen is used to treat breast cancer in men and women and blocks the female hormone estrogen.
Mike DeAngelis, CVS’s director of public relations, said in a statement that the company had contacted or left messages for every family whose child was dispensed a 0.5 mg fluoride prescription in the previous 60 days. He said that “most of the families we have spoken to did not indicate that their children received any incorrect pills.”
“The health and safety of our customers is our highest priority and we are deeply sorry for the mistake that occurred … ,” DeAngelis said.
He said the company would continue to follow up with families who believe their children may have ingested incorrect medication.
“We are actively investigating this matter to determine how the mistake occurred in order to take corrective actions to prevent this from happening again,” DeAngelis said.
CVS Caremark, based in Woonsocket, R.I., runs the second-largest chain of drugstores in the U.S., after Walgreen.
Notes from FAN:
Tamoxifen is a known human carcinogen. According to a 2000 News Release from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, “Tamoxifen is listed in the 9th Report as a “known human carcinogen” based on evidence from studies in humans that indicate tamoxifen increases the risk of uterine cancer in women. While there is clear evidence that tamoxifen causes uterine cancer in women, there is also conclusive evidence that tamoxifen therapy reduces the risk of cancer in the opposite breast in women with a previous diagnosis of breast cancer, and reduces the incidence of breast cancer in women at increased risk for this disease.”
A 2007 incident in NY involved kindergarten children mistakenly given Ritalin instead of fluoride tablets.