Former Econofoods Pharmacy customer looks to change Iowa law - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Former Econofoods Pharmacy customer looks to change Iowa law

DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- Wednesday, in a meeting with the Iowa Board of Pharmacy, a former pharmacist and a former customer of the Dubuque Econofoods Pharmacy will testify against the company for violating patient privacy rights. It's a story of notification and privacy violation that could change Iowa law.

When Roni Ferraro started using Econofoods Pharmacy, she never thought her privacy would be violated.

"This is sensitive medical information that we're dealing with here. This is stuff about people's health. It's not something that should be treated lightly," Ferraro said.

But on November 30th, 2009, Nash Finch Co. formally announced the closure of it's Dubuque Econofoods Supermarket. Pharmacy files were immediately sold to Hy-Vee Food Stores. And all prescriptions were transferred the very next day, December 1st.

According to the Iowa Board of Pharmacy Code 8.35 (7) at least two weeks prior to closing a pharmacy, the Board and Drug Enforcement Agency must be notified. In this case they were not.

The code also states that all patients must be notified, within two weeks of the closure, that they have the right to transfer their prescriptions to any pharmacy they choose. According to Ferraro and many others, they were not notified their rights.

"Econofoods bares the primary responsibility first and I think that needs to be processed before we can look at the role of other organizations," State Rep. Chuck Isenhart, D-Dubuque, said.

Isenhart started looking into the Econofoods closing after such short layoff notification, right around the holidays. Later he would learn of the privacy right violations.

"But the medical privacy issue is separate from the notification issue. Clearly notification was requires and not provided," Isenhart said.

That means that, by Iowa code, was Econofoods responsibility.

But Hy-Vee did notify patients. In a letter to all former Econofoods customers, they state that Econofoods Pharmacy will moved to the Dodge Street Hy-Vee and prescriptions would be available immediately. The letter did not explain the patients rights, which was not required.

"But it takes two to tango and because there were not rules in place to prevent buying of files before notification was given. I think we need to have rules in place," Isenhart said.

And that's why Ferraro will meet with the Iowa Board of Pharmacy Wednesday morning. She hopes to defend the privacy rights of all patients.

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy has formally filed charges against Nash Finch Company.

We contacted Nash Finch and did not get a call back. Hy-Vee had no comment.

Ferraro meets with the Board of Pharmacy Wednesday in Des Moines. The meeting is open to the public.

Online Reporter: Lauren Squires

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