Watch CBS News

Hacking of health care company leaves Chicago area man stuck in hospital

Hackers target pharmacies, leave some unable to get prescriptions
Hackers target pharmacies, leave some unable to get prescriptions 02:20

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A hack at the company Change Healthcare has crippled pharmacies across the country – in just the latest in a troubling trend in which cyberattacks have affected people's health across the country.

A Naperville man has been left pleading for help from his hospital bed. He said when he went to the pharmacy, he was told he would need to pay out of pocket for medicine on which he depends.

"They said, 'There's nothing we can do for you,'" said Alan Townsend.

Townsend said he ended up in the hospital after trying to pick up his medications for congestive heart failure and diabetes – only to be told Medicaid would not cover the cost.

"This is medicine that if I don't take it, I'll die," Townsend said.

The cyberattack targeted Change Healthcare – which processes transactions for about one in three U.S. patients' records. Hospitals and pharmacies can't get paid – and some patients are unable to get their medication.

In some cases, it has even led to delays in hospital discharges.

"Right now, I'm trapped in the hospital," said Townsend. "I just can't imagine what people are going through that are worse than me."

Patrick Berryman is with the National Community Pharmacists Association – made up of independently-owned pharmacies.

"In some cases, they might have been asked to pay cash. In other cases, they may have been given a couple of days' supply," Berryman said. "Change Healthcare was one of the two biggest switches in the country that independent pharmacies had to deal with."

A Russian-speaking ransomware group known as Blackcat has claimed responsibility for stealing more than six terabytes of sensitive medical records.

Toby Gouker is with First Health Advisory – a cybersecurity firm with clients in the health industry.

"It's an attack on the healthcare supply chain," Gouker said. "Some of the larger systems are losing $100 million or so a day of revenue."

"It's super frustrating to know my life is getting worse because of the system," added Townsend. "It needs to be fixed, and needs to be fixed fast."

Since the attack, many pharmacies have developed workarounds to get prescriptions processed. Deerfield-based Walgreens say they are continuing to fill prescriptions with minimal delay or interruption.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.