Over the past month, ever since Steve Ariens wrote this reply to a reader in his “Ask the Pharmacist” column, I’ve been wondering something:
Are pharmacists getting a bad rap for refusing to fill prescriptions for pain medication?
I’ll say that Ariens’ reply was a bit on the intemperate side, but the overall point he suggested was that if a pharmacy delays in filling out a prescription, then the patient should consider reporting the pharmacy or even taking legal action against it.
A provocative response to be sure — but something patients should know if they believe they are being denied something. The article caused a firestorm of response from patients and pharmacists alike (which at National Pain Report we think is a healthy thing).
Many of the pharmacists who left comments have been loath to use their names. Understandable, but it would be better if they did.
I was drawn to a comment by a reader who called himself “The Actual Pharmacist” who wrote:
“Pharmacists are caught between the DEA, MDs that overprescribe narcotics, abusers of narcotics, and legitimate patients that are suffering through pain. Establish a relationship with your pharmacist and respect his authority.”
That last comment resonated with me. As someone who has suffered from pain, (intermittent, not chronic, it should be said), I have never had any problem or incident with my pharmacy when I’ve had prescriptions filled. I’ve taken the time to get to know the folks at the pharmacy and have pretty good conversations with them about prescriptions.
In fact, at a CVS pharmacy in Northridge, California over the holidays, I approached one of the pharmacists about helping me pick the right over-the-counter product for a severe cold, which she did willingly and helpfully.
One future pharmacist who did leave his name to a comment is Eugene Vivelo IV, who is a student at Butler University. In a thoughtful email and a subsequent interview with National Pain Report, Vivelo said, “I can respect Steve’s (Ariens) side of the story and appealing to his followers who must suffer through their terrible chronic pain. What I cannot respect is his unintelligent and demeaning rant about a pharmacist doing what is required by him by the DEA and looking out for bettering of patient’s therapy.”
I’ve been communicating via email with a couple of pharmacists who as of yet want to remain nameless. I have encouraged them to author a piece from their point of view — so that our readers can understand what the pharmacist is going through in this pain medication debate.
By the way, in the last month we’ve been drawn to an aptly named Facebook page called “The Cynical Pharmacist,” which has a robust following and gives the pharmacists’ point of view on any number of issues in the pharmacist-patient relationship.
We’ll renew our efforts to speak with the chain pharmacies, notably CVS and Walgreens, to get their point of view too.
Pharmacists and patients need to be talking to and with each other, not just at each other.