NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Eckerd settles and everybody wins

By Maxine Shapiro, KERA 90.1 commentator

Dallas, TX – I was getting a little worried there that we, the Little Guy, had no recourse but to abandon our rights as consumers. Finally, a step in the right direction has been taken. Eckerd Corp has settled their case with the State of Florida. The good news, consumers nationwide will reap the benefits. I'm Maxine Shapiro with KERA Marketplace Middays.

The Florida Attorney General's office was investigating whether Eckerd Corp, a division of Plano-based J.C. Penney's, had engaged in deceptive trade practices. See, the Florida Attorney General's office was not too pleased with the drugstore chain's practice of sending unsolicited promotional material on behalf of pharmaceutical companies. As explained here a couple of months ago, Eckerd would send patients material suggesting alternative medications. This material was usually paid for by the drug companies and in most cases the suggested alternative was more expensive than the one the patient was currently taking.

So instead of going to court, Eckerd came to a settlement with the State of Florida. It's good. In fact, when I spoke with Florida's assistant Attorney General John Newton this morning, his pleasure with the settlement was obvious. Although he anticipated winning, had it gone to court, it might not have meant a nationwide change in Eckerd's behavior.

Here's the settlement:

First, Eckerd can no longer use the pharmacy sign-in sheet as a way of notifying and getting approval from customers allowing the drug store to send them material. It used to be that when you signed that sheet after receiving the drug, way down on the bottom of that sheet, in teeny tiny print, you gave your permission to be solicited.

Second, customers must sign a clearly-written affirmation that they are allowing Eckerd to send them material. No negative check can be on the sheet.

And third, that Eckerd must fully disclose when the material being sent is paid for by a third party, the drug companies, and that Eckerd is receiving compensation for sending it.

Newton hopes that this will now set the standard for all drugstore chains. Did you hear that, Walgreen's? For KERA Marketplace Middays, I'm Maxine Shapiro.

Marketplace Midday Reports air on KERA 90.1 Monday - Friday at 1:04 P.M.