Unwanted prescription poses return problem

January 18, 2008 7:27:01 PM PST
One of the largest mail order pharmacies in North America sent a Concord woman a prescription she says she never ordered from them, along with a bill for $270 dollars. When she tried to return it for a refund, they refused.

Rina Valle was determined not to pay for something she didn't want or need. So she took on a Fortune 500 company with $17 billion dollars in revenue, and won.

Rina Valle follows a strict low-calorie diet for her high blood pressure. She also takes two medications to keep that blood pressure under control. She recently received a new shipment through her insurer's mail order drug program.

"Then all of a sudden, a couple of days later, I received this new medication from this company which I didn't even know," said Rina.

It came from Express Scripts, a Fortune 500 company out of Missouri. Apparently, Express Scripts was a benefit she didn't know she had. It came with the supplemental hospital insurance she obtained from AARP.

She told Express Scripts she was going to return the medication.

"So they said, 'we sent it to you. That's it. That medication is yours.' I said, 'no it's not, and I'm going to return it," said Rina.

It remains a mystery how Express Scripts received the information for Rina's prescription. The company believes Rina's doctor sent it to them by mistake, but her doctor says that didn't happen.

The Better Business Bureau has received more than 170 complaints about the company in three years and gives Express Scripts an unsatisfactory rating. The number of complaints is large, but a small fraction of the 41 million prescriptions its annual report says the company filled in 2006 alone.

Meantime, Rina sent out letters for help to the State Department of Consumer Affairs, the district attorney, to the postmaster and 7 On Your Side. We contacted her doctor. Her doctor contacted Express Scripts and the charges were reversed.

"I feel great that you took action. No one else took action, but you did," said Rina.

Express Scripts says once they found out there was an error, the problem could be solved.

The AARP says it remains committed to providing its members exemplary service. It makes Express Scripts available to its members through a contract with United Health Group. That company says it does not believe 170 complaints out of the millions of prescriptions filled is a sign of inefficiency. It continues to investigate how this mistake happened.