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CVS Prescription Mix-Up Under Investigation

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) - The state attorney general's office has begun a preliminary investigation into a CVS pharmacy's mistaken distribution of pills for the treatment of breast cancer to children. The popular pharmacy in Chatham, NJ, mixed up children's fluoride pills with the breast cancer drug Tamoxifen.

The attorney general's consumer affairs division on Friday ordered the pharmacy to explain the mistake and provide the names of all its employees, along with all emails, telephone calls, complaints, and other information related to the mix-up.

The pharmacy must provide the information by Wednesday, and company representatives must appear before division officials for questioning under oath, an order signed by division director Thomas R. Calcagni said.

"To mix that up for children who are obviously grade-school age, that's pretty scary," one person told CBS 2's Emily Smith on Friday.

Meanwhile,popular insurance provider CVS Caremark said in a statement that it was "deeply sorry for the mistake that occurred" at its pharmacy, although the company did not explain how the mistake happened. There has been no report of injury.

Calcagni's administrative order said that the pharmacy acknowledged it improperly dispensed the breast cancer fighting drug instead of chewable fluoride tablets to children in as many as 50 families between Dec. 1, 2011, and Feb. 20. Calcagni said in the order that the division wants to look into whether any laws were violated.

Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay and is usually prescribed by dentists for children. Tamoxifen is used to treat breast cancer in men and women and blocks the female hormone estrogen.

Mike DeAngelis, CVS's director of public relations, said in a statement that the company had contacted or left messages for every family whose child was dispensed a 0.5 mg fluoride prescription in the previous 60 days. He said that "most of the families we have spoken to did not indicate that their children received any incorrect pills."

"The health and safety of our customers is our highest priority, and we are deeply sorry for the mistake that occurred,'' DeAngelis said.

He said that the company would continue to follow up with families who believe their children may have ingested incorrect medication.

Pharmacist Alan Brown, from Liberty Pharmacy in Chatham, said he blames the mistake on CVS being too busy. Brown said it's partly due to a misleading insurance card from CVS Caremark.

"I think people are led to believe they must go to CVS," Brown said. "That's not true. They can go to any pharmacy."

"We are actively investigating this matter to determine how the mistake occurred in order to take corrective actions to prevent this from happening again,'' DeAngelis said.

If a child has taken one Tamoxifen pill, it's not going to have a negative impact on their health. It's highly unlikely a child would even be able to consume multiple pills, due to the strong taste.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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