Tips on staying out of trouble: Be Alert and Be Compliant!!!
Another month of the pandemic has passed, and pharmacists continue to adapt to the new normal.
Inspections by New York City Health Department teams are on the upswing for compliance with city and state COVID-19 regulations. Items on inspectors' checklists include:
These are just some of the new requirements NYC pharmacies must learn to live with in the age of COVID-19. Please see the three links below for New York City Health Department retail establishment COVID-19 guidance:
These links will help you understand compliance measures established by the de Blasio Administration with regard to emergency safety requirements – measurements being enforced by the New York City Department of Health.
Inspectors are making their rounds every day, including on weekends, to make sure your staff is complying with mask requirements, and that patients / customers walking into the pharmacy are wearing facial covers. Don't be lax, it will cost you in the pocketbook.
Be Aware – Fake Phone Scams are on the Rise!
Have you been the subject of a fake phone call from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the New York State Board of Pharmacy, New York State Department of Labor Unemployment Division, or the Social Security Administration?
Each of these agencies has been used as the source of bogus phone calls to pharmacists and pharmacies, with reports dating back several months. I remember receiving a phone call back in early March from a NYCPS member pharmacist who was in a panic after receiving a "fake" phone call from the New York State Board of Pharmacy. The caller alleged that the pharmacy where he worked was in violation of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) electronic controlled substance regulations. I tried to calm this young pharmacist by telling him the New York State Board of Pharmacy would never make a phone call about possible DEA violations. Instead, the agency would send an investigator to the pharmacy, or notify the NYS DOH Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, or the federal DEA.
I quickly called the Board of Pharmacy's Albany headquarters and learned these bogus calls occur all day long. Scammers are taking advantage of technology to make their outgoing phone numbers actually look like the NYS Board of Pharmacy's phone number. I personally have received a number of calls telling me my social security number has been associated with fraudulent activity and advising that I needed a criminal lawyer to assist. Each of these calls, of course, was bogus.
So be smart! Understand these bogus scams are out there and be alert! The situation has gotten so bad that the DEA has placed a warning on its website to advise everyone about these schemes.
In addition, I have learned of three different pharmacies that received written requests, purportedly from the NYS Labor Department Unemployment Unit, for information about unemployment requests. these requests were fraudulent. If you receive a similar request, notify the NYS Labor Department Unemployment Fraud Unit. Fraudulent unemployment claims have become a big problem for the NYS Department of Labor during the pandemic. The agency has instructed anyone in receipt of a suspicious inquiry to report all activity to https://dol.ny.gov/report-fraud
Stay well, stay involved and stay informed.
About the author
James R. Schiffer is secretary to the board for the New York City Pharmacists Society, and senior editor of the NYCPS Newsletter. Jim has been a pharmacist for 46 years, an attorney for 16 years, and is a former community pharmacy owner. Contact Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org.