9 Investigation: Audit finds some NC pharmacies not inspected in years

by: Mark Becker Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

Pharmacies are big business, and there are more than 2,700 registered in North Carolina in 2013 with hundreds in Mecklenburg County alone.

The State Board of Pharmacy is charged with regulating and inspecting all of the pharmacies in the state and checking to make sure that drugs are properly stored and not outdated, and that pharmacists and technicians are licensed.

A new state audit report says that many of those pharmacies have not been inspected for at least four years.

The report states 35 percent of the state's pharmacies have not been inspected for four years or more and that 21 percent, or one in five, have not been inspected in the last six years.

"It was shocking, startling to me the kinds of issues that are going on within our pharmacies," State Auditor Beth Wood told Eyewitness News.

Among the problems her report pointed out:
• A patient given the wrong medication
• Mislabeled directions on medication
• A patient shorted on a prescription
• Pharmacy staff giving false information to a patient

Wood said the problems only surfaced after someone had called the Pharmacy Board with complaints when routine inspections might have caught the problems sooner.

"That's what routine inspections are about--to prevent major problems from happening," Wood said.

The man in charge of the Board of Pharmacy told Eyewitness News that routine audits might not have caught those problems, but he does see the need for more regular checks.

"Let me first say that I don't disagree that inspections are important," said Dr. Jay Campbell.

Campbell said they would like to inspect pharmacies at least once every four years, but with only seven inspectors to cover the entire state they have made investigating specific complaints a higher priority.

He did say that the audit has led to some changes already—most significantly a new record-keeping system that will store all of their inspection files electronically.

He also said they are now looking to add two more inspectors to help cover the 300 complaints they get each year and regular inspections.

"There's no question that the audit findings help spur anyone to do a deep reflection on the way you do your mission. We have done that, are doing that," Campbell said.

To see the full audit by the state auditor, click here.

To see more from the State Board of Pharmacy, click here.

See all the 9 Investigates stories from Eyewitness News by clicking here