A day after Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced plans to sue CVS and Rite Aid following an investigation that revealed 50 of the chains' stores in the five boroughs had sold expired products to consumers, the TimesLedger found outdated drugs and milk at two Queens outlets Friday.
Cuomo held a news briefing last Thursday in which he said 28 CVS outlets and 22 Rite Aid stores in the city sold expired baby formula, over-the-counter drugs, eggs and milks.
A spot check by the TimesLedger found Bayside's Rite Aid, 43-20 Bell Blvd., outlet, which was not named in Cuomo's investigation, was selling four-day-old expired Oak Tree milk. The 118-10 Queens Blvd. CVS, in Forest Hills had expired over-the-counter drugs on its shelves, including Lactaid Fast Act tablets and CVS Allergy and Sinus Maximum Strength tablets.
The TimesLedger also dug up an 18-month-old expired box of Lipo-Flavonoid ear medication in that Queens Boulevard CVS.
"This is really bad because it could affect my mother," said 32-year-old Helen Chabla, a Forest Hills resident who was worried by the recent revelations because her mother buys medication from that same CVS drugstore on a regular basis.
That location was one of five Queens CVS and Rite Aid stores found to have been selling expired goods in Cuomo's statewide, three-month investigation.
"These companies allowed personal profit to get ahead of their customers' health," Cuomo said.
Rite Aid's director of public relations, Cheryl Slavinsky, said "none of this was intentional. We are checking products in stores nationwide and we are retraining our employees on this matter."
CVS representatives failed to respond to requests for comment.
In Queens, the CVS stores in Rego Park, on 9710 63rd Rd., Howard Beach, on 157-05 Cross Bay Blvd., and Forest Hills, on 118-10 Queens Blvd., and Rite Aid stores in Flushing, on 144-29 Northern Blvd., and Rego Park, on 95-14 63rd Dr., sold expired over-the-counter drugs, including popular products such as Similac and budget-friendly, store-brand products like CVS Children's Pain Relief and Rite Aid Suphedrine, according to Cuomo.
Cuomo issued CVS and Rite Aid a five-day notice letter last Thursday for failing to remove the potentially dangerous products from their shelves and informed them of the attorney general's intent to file suit against them for violating federal, state and local laws.
Vicky Sottolano of College Point was shopping at the Rite Aid in Bayside, on 43-20 Bell Blvd., where expired milk was discovered in the freezer June 13. She said this news didn't shock her. "Eckerd used to be here, and ever since Rite Aid came in, the quality just went down."
She said she had found expired over-the-counter ointment at Rite Aid in the past. "It shows that they don't care enough about their customers and they don't monitor what they're selling."
She added, "Most people don't look at medications' expiration dates because they assume that it's safe for them to use. It should be."
Since March Cuomo's investigators purchased more than 600 expired items at 142 CVS stores and 112 Rite Aid stores in 41 New York counties, his office said. Cuomo's investigators allegedly uncovered several expired products that were over a year old.
"My ongoing investigation has uncovered a shameful disregard for public health in these stores," Cuomo said. "When the products pass their expiration dates, they become ineffective and potentially unsafe, threatening to put our loved ones at risk."
Arthur Levin, executive director of the Center for Medical Consumers, a not-for-profit organization based in Manhattan, said "drug products have expiration dates for good reason. A drug's effectiveness can diminish over time as chemicals lose their potency."
Levin said this serves as a reminder to consumers to read labels carefully and to note the expiration date of the products they buy.
Though other drugstore chains were investigated, Cuomo refused to name them and said "CVS and Rite Aid were the worst."
To view the Rite Aid and CVS locations in New York that Cuomo claims illegally sold expired products, visit www.oag.state.ny.us/press/2008/june/CVSRiteAidDataCompleteForWeb.pdf.
©2008 Community News Group
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