For nearly four years, Carrie Scribner has been battling skin cancer and the added stress came when a promising new drug, Erivedge, was delivered to the wrong address.
“I’d started noticing kind of like spots, almost like little lesions on my skin that just wouldn’t go away,” Scribner said.
She’s had more than 30 procedures, cutting away layers of skin from all over her body, trying to stay ahead of the cancer.
“It just keeps me from doing what I want to do, being an outdoor person,” Scribner said. “It takes a big chunk of your life and this doesn’t help -- the stress.”
Scribner’s doctor prescribed the drug as an alternative to more painful procedures.
It’s an expensive medication, coming in at more than $9,400 for a 28-day supply.
Because of its cost and sensitivity, the medication was sent monthly to Scribner’s home through FedEx.
But Scribner said, in the first five months of treatment, it was delivered to the right address only once. The other four times, door tags were left at her mother’s house instead of making the delivery to Scribner’s garage apartment that sits next door.
While Scribner eventually got those deliveries from FedEx, it’s the pills dropped off in January that she decided not to take.
They were delivered by UPS, and left on the back porch of her mother’s house. The package sat outside all day with temperatures in the mid-teens.
“At 7:30 when my mother got home from work, she called me and said ‘Hey, you have a package down here. I think it’s your medication,’” Scribner said.
Scribner called her doctors and the company that manufactures the medication. Both told her not to take it because of the exposure to cold.
We reached out to Walgreens, and they tell the Troubleshooters: “Our pharmacist advised the patient not to take the medication until we could check on this concern with the manufacturer.”
Scribner insists when she called the Walgreens specialty pharmacy in New Haven, where the order was processed, the pharmacist told her to go ahead and take the pills.
According to the prescribing information provided by drug manufacturer Genentech, Erivedge should be stored at room temperature - 68 to 77 degrees and for excursions between 59 and 86 degrees.
Scribner said neither UPS nor Walgreens was able to explain why the medication was left outside at the wrong address when she was sitting in her apartment next door waiting for the delivery.
She also said those same delivery companies didn’t make that mistake over the holidays.
“During Christmastime I did all of my ordering online this year because I wasn’t feeling well to go out to the stores,” said Scribner. “And all the packages made it to my porch - the right address. I did not have one of them come here to my mother’s house.”
In a statement, UPS tells the Troubleshooters that the package was sent from Walgreens with ‘No signature required,’ and “if there is no signature required, then UPS is able to leave the package in a location out of public view and under shelter.”
While FedEx eventually got all of the deliveries to Scribner, they told us they do not comment on customer complaints.
Professor Lisa Holle, PharmD, is with UConn’s School of Pharmacy and specializes in oncology care. She said Scribner’s doctor and Genentech were right to advise her not to take the pills left out in the cold.
“Heat and moisture are more damaging to most drugs, but certainly these cold temperatures we’ve had in Connecticut and throughout the country this winter can also be extreme enough to cause the drugs not to be as effective,” said Holle.
While Scribner’s medication was prepared by a specialty pharmacy, a growing number of people are either choosing, or being forced by their insurers or employers, to use mail order pharmacies to save money.
Professor Holle said anyone who receives mail order prescription drugs should monitor when those deliveries are made and how long they’re left sitting outside.
“If you open up a bottle of your medication and the tablets or capsules have a funny odor, they are falling apart or having cracks in them, and they just don’t look right, you shouldn’t use them,” said Holle.
She also recommends, if possible, that someone is home when deliveries are made, or to have medications shipped to work so they’re not left outdoors.
Walgreens sent Scribner another round of Erivedge, though she had to miss taking it by six days.
So far, no one can tell her for sure who is responsible for the failed deliveries and no one has apologized.
“It’s beyond frustrating,” said Scribner. “I can’t even describe how frustrating it is to not have answers. It just makes you feel like you don’t matter. They don’t care. ”