Phoenix/ Health & Lifestyle
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Published on February 26, 2024
Cyber Strike Cripples Pharmacies, Forces Detroit Woman to Cough Up $1,600 for MedsSource: Unsplash/ Towfiqu barbhuiya

Pharmacies nationwide have been caught in the crosshairs of a cyberattack, leaving many patients, including 32-year-old Detroit social worker Mara Furlich, to grapple with the choice of paying cash for their medications or delaying treatment. Furlich, who needed Paxlovid as her Covid-19 symptoms took a turn for the worse, shelled out $1,600 after her pharmacy, along with several others, were unable to process her insurance due to the system disruptions caused by the attack on Change Healthcare, as she recounted in an interview with CNN.

According to the information obtained by 12News, Change Healthcare is a major processor of prescription transactions for tens of thousands of pharmacies, and the outage has affected military pharmacies globally as well as retail pharmacies. At Camp Pendleton, for instance, prescription disruptions have been reported when the facility became a victim of the ongoing hacking saga. Academic health systems in states like Indiana and California also find their prescription services pinched by the cybersecurity incident.

The havoc wreaked by the hack continues, with Change Healthcare posting a message last Friday about the cyber issue, which resulted in the firm having to "disconnect our systems to prevent further impact," according to a statement on their website. They're working to restore the impacted services but have cautioned that they won't be taking shortcuts or adding risks during this process. The American Hospital Association has even suggested that health care entities cut ties with Change Healthcare until everything is cleared up.

US cybersecurity officials are on high alert over the breach. A number of agency representatives, including those from the FBI, US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the Department of Health and Human Services, have convened over the past two days to monitor the fallout and its ripple effects on patient care, a U.S. official told CNN. An HHS spokesperson signaled that the hack underscores the ongoing need for vigilance in the health care sector. However, the details remain murky as to who orchestrated the attack, with only hints pointing to possible "nation-state associated" hackers, as specified in a regulatory filing by Change Healthcare's parent company, yet this claim remains unconfirmed.

Max Henderson, an assistant vice president at security firm Pondurance, revealed to 12News that the recovery for Change Healthcare will be "lengthy and burdensome." He also confirms that probes into events of this scale can drag on for weeks before any definitive containment can be assured to their clients.