Magazine article Drug Topics

Y2K Turned into Big Nonevent in Pharmacies Nationwide

Magazine article Drug Topics

Y2K Turned into Big Nonevent in Pharmacies Nationwide

Article excerpt

Chicken Little was wrong. The sky didn't fall on Jan. 1, 2000, and the Y2K bug didn't bite. Not badly, anyway

Scattered computer glitches prevented pharmacists at some Longs and Rite Aid stores around the country from filling prescriptions for a few hours after the turn of the new century. About 50 Cigna Healthcare patients in Southern California temporarily lost pharmacy benefits. And a hospital patient management system in South Korea told nurses that a one-year-old patient had just turned 99.

But for most of the health-care industry, entering the year 2000 meant business as usual. "All of the reports we got in were completely normal," said Debra Cabral, spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Alliance for Y2K Readiness. The coalition includes nearly two dozen pharmacy-related industry groups, associations, and patient advocacy organizations. "As far as we could tell, nothing out of the ordinary took place."

If Y2K is remembered at all in pharmacy, it's likely to be for what didn't happen. There were no runs on drug supplies, no major problems with credit card approvals, no massive stockpiling of consumer products, and no widespread computer crashes. "We're looking at something like 60,000 pharmacy locations nationwide," noted Phil Schneider, spokesman for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, one of the founding groups behind the alliance. "With that kind of numbers, you're bound to have some glitches, Y2K or not."

And glitches did happen. But even R.Ph.s who couldn't fill scripts when they opened for business in 2000 shrugged off the problems as no worse than any other New Year or holiday weekend. "For all the gloom-and-doom forecasts, we came through pretty much unscathed," said a Rite Aid pharmacist whose computer sputtered through the first hours of business on Jan. 2. "It was just sporadic stores that had a few hours of shutdown, but everything was working fine by the end of the day."

The news was similar from other chains. Walgreens spokesman Michael Polzin said stores nationwide made the transition from 1999 to 2000 "without significant problems." There were a few obscure hiccups in back-office systems, none severe enough to impact pharmacy, front line pharma cists, or store operations, he added.

Independent pharmacies seemed to have fared equally well.

Ken Whittemore, v.p. of management services for the National Community Pharmacists Association, said he knew of no Y2Krelated problems among independents. NCPA sent fax surveys to its membership on Dec. 1, 1999, and Jan. 1, 2000, asking about Y2K problems, anticipated or real. …

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