Walgreens and CVS are two of the biggest names in medication, providing millions of shoppers across the U.S. with both prescription pills and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. But despite the relief these two major drugstore chains have brought customers, they don't always get it right with the shoppers they serve. In fact, both Walgreens and CVS were just named in a new consumer lawsuit over one of the medications they sell. Read on to find out why the two companies are now under fire.
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Both Walgreens and CVS have faced backlash recently.
Walgreens and CVS are no strangers to criticism. In Jan. 2022, both drugstore chains faced a number of complaints after they were forced to close some of their pharmacies over the weekend due to staffing shortages. Many customers say they weren't properly notified of the abrupt closures and instead unexpectedly arrived to closed drive-thrus and pharmacy counters.
Separately, Walgreens came under fire in March after shoppers expressed their frustration with the retailer replacing clear glass doors in the fridge and freezer section with new animated digital screens. And CVS caught its own flack just last month over its store-brand alcohol-based hand sanitizer, with one consumer suing over the claim that its "kills 99.9 percent of germs" labeling is inaccurate.
Both companies have just been hit with the same lawsuit.
Now, Walgreens and CVS are both under fire for the same reason. A consumer lawsuit was filed in the Western District of Missouri against the two drugstore chains on June 1 over one of the medications they sell, Law Street first reported. The plaintiff filed the suit on behalf of herself and her minor son, alleging that Walgreens and CVS failed to warn about the risks of prenatal exposure to the medication paracetamol, which is also known as acetaminophen (APAP), specifically in regards to causing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children. In the U.S., paracetamol includes popular brand-name medications such as Tylenol, Mapap, or Pandaol.
Some studies have linked the prenatal use of this medication to certain disorders.
In 2019, a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published in JAMA Psychiatry indicated that "exposure to acetaminophen in the womb" may increase a child's risk for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and ASD. A separate study published May 2021 in the European Journal of Epidemiology found that children who were prenatally exposed to paracetamol were 19 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ASD and 21 percent more likely to have ADHD symptoms compared to children not exposed to this medication.
The lawsuit says that Walgreens and CVS should be warning consumers about this risk.
The plaintiff suing Walgreens and CVS claims that pregnant women often electively choose to take paracetamol because the two drugstore chains "have marketed APAP as a safe pain reliever for pregnant women." But according to the suit, this marketing is misleading because Walgreens and CVS "knew or should have known that prenatal use of APAP can cause ASD or ADHD."
According to the suit, the plaintiff elected to take APAP medications throughout her pregnancy to help with her arthritis. She said she believed it was safe to do so as there were no warning labels or alerts from the companies about the potential risks associated with prenatal use of this medication. But when her child was 22 months old, the plaintiff said they were diagnosed with ASD.
The plaintiff alleges that both Walgreens and CVS "entirely failed their duty to adequately warn of the hazards of prenatal exposure to APAP, which was a direct and proximate cause of Plaintiff's injuries and associated damages."
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