If you are traveling and fall ill, you may find yourself at a Rite Aid pharmacy looking for relief. You may find a counter manned by an employee in a white coat, there to offer advice on medications and symptoms. And you might think you are speaking with the pharmacist on duty when in reality, you are talking to one of Rite Aid’s Wellness Ambassadors.
Rite Aid began the Wellness Ambassador program in an effort to improve customer service. The Ambassadors are meant to serve as greeters, to act as customer liaisons to pharmacists, and to assist in locating products. But the white coat and potential proximity to the pharmacy counter have raised questions about the program and its potential for pharmacy mistakes.
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According to the Daily Finance, Senator Dick Durbin (IL) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT) have drafted a letter to Rite Aid’s CEO taking issue with the Wellness Ambassador program. They cite recommendations of non-FDA approved supplements and reports of harmful outcomes after patients take the Wellness Ambassador’s advice as concerning. Some reports have come in that patients have been advised to consider a vitamin regimen to help in cancer prevention. In reality studies have shown there could be a link between these vitamins and cancer.
Ultimately, the concern is based on non-medical experts giving medical advice, the potential for drug interactions, and the potential for medicine mistakes. Patients who believe they are speaking with a pharmacist when talking to a Wellness Ambassador may not raise questions about their medications with the actual pharmacist. They may ask the Wellness Ambassador to interpret their dosing instructions or other information. The program itself is not flawed, so long as the Wellness Ambassadors do not offer advice on medications or supplements and do not wear the white coat of a pharmacist.