A video was recently posted in a chronic pain support group of which I am a member.
“Red Flags” was produced by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and the Anti-Diversion Industry Working Group, a coalition of pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors, as an educational video for pharmacists to help them identify the warning signs of prescription drug abuse and diversion.
Warning signs for pharmacists seems like a good idea. Just like when diagnosing a physical illness, it is good to have a list of symptoms to work with.
But sadly this video was more interested in stereotypes and putting the blame on patients.
Some of the “flags” make sense. Patients coming into a pharmacy in groups, all having opioid scripts from the same prescriber, and for the same medication, appears to be suspicious on its face.
But if someone uses “street slang” it should not be an automatic warning sign – not as long as the prescription is from a legitimate doctor for a legitimate drug with an appropriate dosage and amount.
The same is true if a pharmacy customer has constricted pupils or other physical signs of being medicated. If I am on a narcotic drug given by my doctor, I may well have signs of having taken that medication. On the other hand, if I am glancing all around, acting very nervous and leery, I may be trying to scam.
It is always better if prescriptions come from one doctor, but often those of us in pain require more than one specialist. Often each doctor will give prescriptions on their own.
The same is true if we have multiple pain disorders, or other conditions that have pain as a component. More than one doctor will most probably be writing our prescriptions. And those may be for pain medication.
I have no problem with the pharmacist making sure the prescription has a legitimate purpose, if he has a good reason to ask.
But I do wonder, why does the customer have to prove it? The video makes the patient the bad guy, suggesting they have to prove the legitimacy of their prescription and the need for it.
A doctor prescribes for reasons only he may know. He decides which drug is appropriate, not the patient. He can explain his reasons; the patient often cannot. The disorder and how it is treated may not be one the pharmacist is familiar with.
In the video, I did not hear the announcer say, “If you, the pharmacist, have questions about a customer, their prescription, or the reason for the prescription, call the doctor and verify.”
But the doctor is the one who can verify, who can explain, who can confirm a patient’s identity and if the prescription is real.
We have enough to deal with — merely getting through our days with pain.
We should not also be put in a position of having to defend what our doctors do to help us.
Carol Jay Levy has lived with trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic facial pain disorder, for over 30 years. She is the author of “A Pained Life, A Chronic Pain Journey.” Carol was accredited to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, where she helped get chronic pain recognized as a disease.
The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that! It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.