CVS and Walgreens say pharmacist work action had minimal impact

Picketing outside the headquarters of drugstore chain Walgreens in Deerfield

(Reuters) - CVS Health Corp and Walgreens Boots Alliance on Wednesday said that a work action by some U.S. pharmacists this week had minimal impact on operations, with most stores remaining open.

CVS Chief Executive Karen Lynch said in an interview that employees had called in sick at a few stores this week, but there were no store closures or disruptions to shifts due to the action. The company has about 30,000 pharmacists across stores and operates over 9,000 retail locations.

A Walgreens spokesperson told Reuters that the walkout - dubbed "Pharmageddon" and largely planned on social media platforms such as Meta's Facebook - had little impact and that only three pharmacies were closed temporarily over the past three days.

The spokesperson said no pharmacies in the United States were closed on Wednesday, which was to be the final day of the walkout. Walgreens operated 8,701 retail pharmacy stores in the United States as of Aug. 31, 2023.

Shane Jerominski, a former Walgreens pharmacist and one of the organizers of the walkout, told Reuters on Monday that as many as 5,000 pharmacy workers would walk out across the three days. The goal was to push companies to improve working conditions and add more staff to their store.

CVS's Lynch said the company has spent about $1 billion on improving wages for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.

Jerominski added that the exact number of affected stores and participating staff was not clear due to the lack of a union.

He said the organizers were also seeking better pay and more consistent hours for technicians, who locate, dispense, pack and label prescribed medication for patients under the supervision of pharmacists.

(Reporting by Leroy Leo and Pratik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Caroline Humer and Anil D'Silva)