On March 7, 2011, Arthur Steinberg and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Health and Welfare Fund sued CVS Caremark Corporation (“CVS”), alleging that its unauthorized disclosure of protected health information (“PHI”) constituted an unfair trade practice. The complaint claims that CVS, one of the nation’s largest pharmacies, sent letters to physicians that listed their patients’ names, dates of birth and prescribed medications. The letters encouraged the physicians to prescribe drugs made by pharmaceutical manufacturers, who paid CVS to send them. This purported disclosure of PHI would violate the HIPAA Privacy Rule’s prohibitions against disclosing PHI for marketing purposes without an individual’s authorization.
This is the second major lawsuit filed against CVS in the past few year. Last December, a group of Texas pharmacies filed suit against CVS for violations of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) and misappropriation of trade secrets. The Texas complaint alleged that CVS disclosed PHI to pharmaceutical manufacturers for the manufacturers’ marketing purposes. In 2009, CVS paid $2.25 million to the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) to settle charges that it violated the HIPAA Security Rule by dumping prescription records in dumpsters.