Groups allege state pharmacy official violated ethics rules

Two activist groups are asking Indiana's inspector general to investigate whether the former president of the state pharmacy board who works for Walgreen Co. violated state rules by advocating for the company's overhaul of its pharmacy-counter setup.

Consumer advocacy groups Common Cause Indiana and Change to Win on Monday submitted a complaint to the inspector general arguing that former Pharmacy Board President William Cover committed ethics code violations.

Cover, also employed as Walgreen’s manager of pharmacy affairs, worked behind the scenes in 2011 to promote the board’s approval of a new pharmacy format in Walgreen’s Indiana stores, according to the group complaint.

At one point, board members held closed meetings with Walgreen management in Illinois—organized in part by Cover—that essentially circumvented Indiana laws requiring open meetings, the watchdog groups said.

Despite the obvious conflict of interest, Cover acted “as an advocate” for Walgreen in the process, according to the complaint. In addition, Walgreen received unfair privileges in the approval process as a result of Cover's intervention.

“Walgreens and the Board of Pharmacy’s disregard for Indiana’s executive branch ethics policies is deeply disappointing,” said Julia Vaughn, Policy Director of Common Cause Indiana, in a prepared statement. “Good policy is rarely made behind closed doors, and it is simply unacceptable for anyone to take advantage of their position in state government for private profit.”

Indiana Professional Licensing Agency spokeswoman Sue Swayze told The Indianapolis Star that Cover was merely coordinating logistical issues before the 2011 board vote to approve the remodeling. Cover abstained from that vote.

The format, called the “Well Experience,” moves pharmacists from behind a counter to a floor workstation closer to customers. Common Cause and Change to Win say the new setup risks patient privacy and drug theft when pharmacists leave their stations to assist customers.

Walgreen Co. says the store layout is safe.

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