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U.S. pharmacies crippled by cyberattack at UnitedHealth’s Change Healthcare

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U.S. pharmacies crippled by cyberattack at UnitedHealth’s Change Healthcare

Pharmacies are still grappling with difficulties providing prescriptions Friday following a cyberattack against one of the nation’s largest health-care technology companies that began on Wednesday.

Pharmacies nationwide reported delays in filling prescriptions following a Wednesday cyberattack against Change Healthcare, a technology company that handles orders and patient payments.

“Change Healthcare is experiencing a network interruption related to a cybersecurity issue and our experts are working to address the matter,” the company said in a statement. “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. We will provide updates as more information becomes available.”

Pharmacies across the country have issued notices that the cyberattack is disrupting their ability to process patients’ orders. Scheurer Family Pharmacy in Michigan notified customers in a Facebook post.

“Due to a nationwide outage from the largest prescription processor in North America, we are currently unable to process prescriptions at any of our four locations of Scheurer Family Pharmacy,” the post said. “We are being told that this is temporary but have not been given a time for restored services.”

The pharmacy clarified to concerned patients that it still was able to accept prescriptions but could not process them through the patients’ insurance. A later update stated that its systems were “back up and running.”

Change Healthcare is one of the largest health-care technology companies in the United States. According to its website, the company handles 15 billion health-care transactions annually, and one-third of U.S. patient records are “touched by our clinical connectivity solutions.”

In 2022, health insurance giant UnitedHealth Group completed its merger of U.S. health-care services companies Optum and Change Healthcare in a $7.8 billion deal. The transaction provided Optum broad access to patient records on tens of millions of Americans. Optum provides technology and data to insurance companies and health-care services and supplies technology services for more than 67,000 pharmacies and care to 129 million individual customers.

Mickey Bresman, CEO of the security company Semperis, said the cyberattack was another reminder of the potential threats to the nation’s health-care infrastructure.

“Now with reports surfacing that Change Healthcare has experienced an outage due to a likely ransomware attack and pharmacies across the country are experiencing delays in processing prescriptions, we’re reminded of the challenges health-care providers face daily to ensure business continuity and patient care,” he said.

The American Hospital Association urged healthcare facilities Wednesday to disconnect from Optum and to check their systems for security vulnerabilities: “We recommend that all health care organizations that were disrupted or are potentially exposed by this incident consider disconnection from Optum until it is independently deemed safe to reconnect to Optum.”

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