LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A series of errors from technicians and pharmacists at a North Las Vegas CVS store led to the termination of Timika Thomas’s in vitro fertilization. Many, including Thomas herself, are asking the same question. How could something like this happen?
Thomas and her husband were having trouble getting pregnant in 2019. She had two ectopic pregnancies, which led to Thomas having her fallopian tubes removed. And even though they weren’t insured for the costs they would endure, they decided to pay for invitro fertilization – IVF.
Doctors sedated Thomas, inserted two eggs inside her body and sent her home with prescriptions, one of which would trick her body into producing enough hormones to kickstart her pregnancy.
Thomas went to her CVS branch in North Las Vegas and filled prescriptions from her doctor for vaginal suppositories. She took two of her required doses and knew something was wrong.
“I started cramping really bad,” Thomas told KLAS.
No stranger to the IVF process, she expected cramping, but this was not the pain she anticipated.
“My cramping went beyond that,” she told KLAS. “It was extreme. It was painful.”
When she read the label and did internet searches, she learned that the medication is used for abortions.
“They just killed my baby,” she said to herself at the time. “Both my babies, because I transferred two embryos.”
Thomas went to the pharmacy board for answers. The board sanctioned the two involved pharmacists, one for failing to consult with the patient before leaving with the prescription and the other for missing errors made by other CVS technicians.
Those pharmacists took responsibility for the ruinous failure, but not before placing some of the blame on their employer, CVS.
According to one of the pharmacists involved, the business was asking clinicians to make critical decisions without allowing the time required to make good judgment calls. She told the board that CVS pressured her to meet certain “metrics” and reduced staff while increasing the workload. She said she was overwhelmed.
“It was not a place that I really felt was safe to work in. Even if you had brought up concerns about it, there was not really anything that ever changed,” she said of her employer, CVS.
The company’s annual report shows the drugstore giant took in $322 billion in 2022. However, pharmacists in Kansas City recently walked off the job due to similar complaints, citing the risk to their patients as the workload grows and staff diminishes.
“You cannot expect one pharmacist to be doing drop-off, pickup, verifying prescriptions, calling providers, calling patients — all of those duties and administering vaccinations,” the pharmacist said.
Aside from being overwhelmed, the workload has taken its toll. According to a study from the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, suicide rates among pharmacists are higher than the general population at 20 per 100,000, more than the 12 per 100,000 of the general population.
For their part, the Nevada Pharmacy Alliance said, “Our profession rightfully demands actions that prioritize the safety of both pharmacy professionals and patients who depend on their care.”
The pharmacists in the Timika Thomas medication mixup were fined and had their licenses put on probation. The pharmacy board issued a $10,000 fine to CVS, the maximum allowed by statute. CVS can still appeal the board’s decision.
The drugstore giant released a statement, saying, “We’ve apologized to our patient for the prescription incident that occurred in 2019 and have cooperated with the Nevada Board of Pharmacy in this matter. The health and well-being of our patients is our number one priority and we have comprehensive policies and procedures in place to support prescription safety. Prescription errors are very rare, but if one does occur, we take steps to learn from it in order to continuously improve quality and patient safety.”
“It’s a human error,” one of the pharmacists said tearfully. “It was just a human error, and I’m so sorry.”
Sorry, Thomas said, only goes so far.
“I put my life in CVS’s hands, and they gave me something that could have possibly taken my life away,” Thomas said. “But it didn’t — it took my baby’s life away.”