Rite Aid “Wellness Ambassadors”

Senator Durbin and I wrote to Rite Aid to inquire about possible deceptive and misleading practices at Rite Aid stores. Rite Aid has partnered with the dietary supplement retailer GNC to open supplement stores, known as “wellness stations” in Rite Aid stores, often adjacent to the pharmacies. I believe that the incorporation of dietary supplements, which are not reviewed by the FDA, alongside tested and approved over the counter drugs creates the possibility for consumer confusion and possibly dangerous consequences.

Even more troubling than the confusion that could result from the integration of dietary supplements and FDA-approved drugs is Rite Aid’s decision to install “wellness ambassadors” in its stores. According to news reports, these “wellness ambassadors” wear white lab coats and use tablet computers to answer consumers’ health questions. Consumers who visits a pharmacy and speak with an employee who is wearing a white coat and dispensing health advice would reasonably assume that the employee is a pharmacist or other health professional, but they would be wrong. Unlike a pharmacist position, which requires completion of a doctoral degree and a state license to practice, the only requirements for a “wellness ambassador” are a high school diploma and a year of retail experience.

I do not believe that untrained employees should be dispensing medical advice or directing customers to non-FDA-approved dietary supplements. Consumers should consult trained medical professionals, like doctors and pharmacists, to make decisions about their health and medication or supplement purchases.