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Cybersecurity breach at UnitedHealth subsidiary causes Rx delays for some pharmacies

Cybersecurity breach at UnitedHealth subsidiary causes Rx delays for some pharmacies

An ongoing cybersecurity breach that hit the health technology company Change Healthcare this week has led to prescription delays for at least a few small pharmacies in the U.S., with some interruptions reported by bigger institutions like Walgreens, according to the pharmacies.

Change Healthcare — a technology company based in Tennessee that is part of the health services provider Optum, Inc. and owned by the massive conglomerate UnitedHealth Group — first reported experiencing company-wide connectivity problems on Wednesday morning. By Thursday, both the subsidiary and UnitedHealth acknowledged that a cybersecurity issue had caused a network outage that was expected to last 24 hours or more.

“Change Healthcare is experiencing a cyber security issue and our experts are working to address the matter,” a spokesperson for UnitedHealth said in a statement to CBS News on Thursday. “Once we became aware of the outside threat, in the interest of protecting our partners and patients, we took immediate action to disconnect our systems to prevent further impact.” 

“At this time, we believe the issue is specific to Change Healthcare and all other systems across UnitedHealth Group are operational,” the spokesperson added. “The disruption is expected to last at least through the day.” 

The company said it would share additional updates as more information becomes available.

A family-owned pharmacy and two military pharmacies, in the Midwest and California, all reported on Wednesday and Thursday that network outages impacting national healthcare providers had prevented them from filling prescriptions. 

Canadian Lakes Pharmacy in Stanwood, Michigan, initially said in a social media post on Wednesday that it was unable to bill most insurance companies for prescriptions filled there due to what the pharmacy called a “nationwide outage of some of the largest prescription processors” in the country. 

By Thursday morning, Canadian Lakes said in an updated post that it was able to fill prescriptions and bill them to most of its customers’ insurance plans as usual.

But at least two other pharmacies alerted customers about prescription delays linked to network outages later on Thursday. In a social media post, 22nd Medical Group, which services the McConnell Air Force base in Kansas, said “an unexpected enterprise-wide” system outage meant the pharmacy could not process new prescriptions, though it would continue dispensing already-completed prescriptions.

The Naval Hospital at Camp Pendleton, a U.S. Marine Corps base in California, also reported issues filling prescriptions.

“Due to an ongoing enterprise-wide issue, all Camp Pendleton and associated pharmacies are unable to process any prescription claims,” the hospital wrote in a social media post. “We are only able to assist patients with emergency and urgent prescriptions from hospital providers at this time.”

A spokesperson for Walgreens said in a statement to CBS News that the pharmaceutical giant was not experiencing significant barriers to filling prescriptions, although a “small percentage” of prescriptions may be affected.

 For the small percentage that may be affected, we have procedures in place so that we can continue to process and fill these prescriptions with minimal delay or interruption,” the Walgreens spokesperson said.

—CBS News homeland security and justice reporter Nicole Sganga contributed reporting.

The article was first published here

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