Miss Understood: Sold Out of Norco?

Miss Understood: Sold Out of Norco?

I like to consider myself fortunate dealing with my pharmacist and doctor when it comes to refilling my prescriptions.

There have been many changes made with rules and classifications on certain medications. The most important changes for pain sufferers such as myself involve hydrocodone – which is sold under brand names such as Vicodin, Lortab and Norco.

norcoI did not experience a huge impact on my ability to obtain my painkillers up until recently.

For many, Black Friday is a day to get great deals on gifts or to recover from their Thanksgiving feast. But for me, Black Friday became a dreadful day of finding a pharmacy that wasn’t filled with hundreds of shoppers and also had a supply of Norco.

I have been battling a Lupus and arthritis flare in silence for weeks now, with regular weekly visits to my rheumatologist. The reason behind the flares is uncertain, but my doctor has been trying to make changes to my medication “cocktail” in hopes that it alleviates some of my pain.

I’ve been alternating painkillers between Percocet and Norco so that I don’t build a tolerance to either, but during Thanksgiving week I ran out of both and was in desperate need of a refill.

My husband went to a nearby CVS (not our regular pharmacy) in hopes that it would be less crowded at 9 am on Black Friday. He was told that they didn’t have Norco in stock, it had not been available for the last three weeks, and they didn’t know when it would be in. Walgreens gave him similar information, but said it would probably be within one to two weeks.

We decided to wait until our regular Costco pharmacy opened. Fortunately, they had it available and were able to fill the prescription the same day.

By the time I got the Norco my pain had gotten so bad I was past the point of pills. I took 2 painkillers and they did nothing for me. I couldn’t sleep, I was restless, I cried from the agony and I couldn’t wait for the next 4 hours to pass so I could try taking 2 more pills. But they still did nothing for me.

All the running around and waiting my husband did in the morning was incredibly sweet, but my body just fell into a deeper hole of pain which no amount of drugs could get me out of.

I’m dumbfounded by the fact that those pharmacies were completely out of Norco and had been for weeks. I don’t see how anyone can get by without their prescription, no matter what it is. How does a pharmacy just turn patients away, especially those in extreme pain? They didn’t even recommend a different location or offer to call another one of their pharmacies to see if they had any in stock.

What will we do if and when there are no more pharmacies carrying any form of pain medication or we have to wait 1 or 2 weeks for a shipment to come in? Do we all go straight to the hospital and get labeled as drug seekers because, technically, that is what we’re after?

We need pain medication to function, just like everyone needs food to fuel their body. Without it we’ll simply become useless.

Arlene Grau

Arlene Grau

Arlene Grau lives in southern California. She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, migraine, vasculitis, and Sjogren’s disease.

The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or tr toeatment. Only your doctor can do that!  It is for informational purposes only and represent 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.

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Dennis Kinch, why do you think it is that people who suffer from chronic pain and can’t get treatment or their meds haven’t at least signed petitions online to the extent that they make an impact ? Why don’t they invest the time to watch the Federal Registery when the quotas are announced for the next year and comment on that ?

I understand that chronic pain is physically, emotionally, mentally and financially exhausting. But, we’re talking about things that can be done online.

Nancy Morrison

I have had Tri geminal Neuralgia for 20 years after having a blow to my head. I have been through all the medications I have read about on your site. Now they are refusing me the Oxycodon that has been so wonderful eliminating the pain.
I know some people take advantage of the Doctor to get the drugs but there must be a way to test the people who say they have the pain and need the Oxycodon. I have had three brain scans to prove I have the problem. We should send mass’s of complaints to the President and demand that we get our pain killers back. Other states have their “POT” but Fla. has neither.

Arlene, I think you already know and found out the hard way, there are no easy answers. Notice these laws are being enacted by the DEA. So you can look up all the rules and regulations you want, or move to another state, or switch doctors, or buy drugs on the street, and none of this will stop fear mongering agencies or agenda driven politicians from changing the rules whenever they want. I’m so used to this, due to morphine, that I start lessening the dosage as the day of the month approaches just assuming things will not go right. I used to be able to hit the pharmacies and locate what I need but I can’t anymore. I just have to wait for my “best friend” pharmacist to get another shipment in, and then start back on them again. This happened 9 out of 12 months last year.

When the rules cut my dose in half, I went 3 months and my doctor called the Medicare people and had me changed to a cancer patient classification, which allowed me to go back to the original amount of morphine. I wish there was better news but…

Hopefully, someday, we’ll figure out how to form a union or something and when these…people enact these stupid laws, we can come out in force. 30 million of us jumping on an agency or politician should have some effect.


Reply to “KELIX”
There are legitimate real pain patients in Florida too!
Do you have any control over pill mills, bad drs and drug addicts in your state? Neither do we. Can you just pick up and move?
I can not. Neither can my 62 yr old mom w/ all I have plus Lupus.
Born here, went to college…got sick moved home to family and friends. My drs are here my husband and his job and life are here and my entire support system is here. Not to mention my house and city that is my home. I don’t know any pill poppers nor have I ever been to or seen a pill mill. It took YEARS to get required pain med. I have only been past on or treated terribly when trying to find a pain mgt dr. I have never heard of an easy place to go get pain pills from. It took 10 yrs with urologist and 15 yrs with rheumotologist and internist to then be accepted into pain mgt I go to. All other’s have just as strict rules. I believe the pill mills are not pain mgt drs at all… which is why real pain pts never been nor know about them. People find out word of mouth dope dealer to dealer…abuser to abuser. They don’t have years of medical records. They are to blame as the drs not a STATE of other people just like you or worse off. Ive heard all about it AFTER but don’t control it and neither do thousands of other honest legit pain pts.


Reta, you can ask for a higher dose, but that doesn’t mean your dr will agree to it. There are Recommended Guidelines for pain meds for those who suffer chronic pain, but aren’t terminal. Many of the drs are going by these Guidelines. Even though the guidelines are not Law, it is up to your dr to prescribe. People don’t think about what will happen if they get cancer. How will their pain be managed then if they are maxed out already on pain meds. And the drs are the ones who get blamed by the patients and their families because the dr is the one who prescribed high doses of meds. Another aspect is that you can only go up so far with pain meds. If someone keeps increasing the dosage when the previous does no longer works well, what will they do when they get to the max dosage ?

We have to adjust out life style and use non medication forms of pain management along with pain meds to get the best out come. Being pain free is not realistic.



That’s the thing, the DEA has been talking to doctors because my doctor told me the same thing, then you look at their site and the director says, we don’t talk to anybody, or tell them what to prescribe, somebody is lying and I bet I know who.

My friend has RSD, he had a doctor that was in his early 70s the DEA person came when he was at his appointment, this doctor kept a 9mm gun on his desk, he chased the guy out of his office with it. My friend was going heck ya. But in the end this doctor had to retire because they were going to charge him with dispensing too much medication and pull his license which you say that to a doctor that’s a fate worse then death.

So like in your case they give you the run around, you being a ex -narcotics investigator it sounds like to me its tons easier to find doctors and harass them, instead of going after the real criminals, like the heroin dealers. I for one would love to be off pain meds, dreamed it, everything, if they legalized marijuana in my state I would ask to get off of it because I would rather do that then go thru withdrawls if your doc has to change your meds. The govt just needs to get their priorities together.

My Morphine tablets are 60mg. Can ask for a higher dosage???


Jay Fleming, for some reason drs tell their patients many things are the fault of the DEA or they are new regulations/laws. The only reason I have been able to come up with that they so this is that when a patient is told it is the fault of anyone but the dr, the patient doesn’t give the dr as hard a time. If I remember correctly the morphine being reduced to 200mg/less is a Recommended Guideline. It does semm that more and more drs are wanting the reduce and/or eliminate breakthrough meds. They are also telling patients they have to be on a long acting pain med instead of only short acting. Since the goal seems to be to reduce the amount of these meds being diverted, it does make sense to reduce the number of immedicate release tablets.

Chronic pain patients need to do their research into federal and state laws as well as recommended guidelines, on a regular basis and not just when something happens they don’t like.

Last appointment with my pain doctor, I was told they received a letter from DEA saying they had to lower my dose of morphine to 200 mg’s or less. When I asked to see the letter, he couldn’t find it. Another friend was told DEA told her doctor, the dose had to be less than 4 pills a day. Problem is, with a 4 hour medicine, it takes 6 pills a day, or 180 pills a month.

When I call the DEA Diversion Unit, they tell me DEA does not tell doctors what to prescribe, or what dose to prescribe. That there are no new regulations on prescribing Schedule II medications.

Patients are going through withdrawals because of quotas set by pharmacy wholesalers, not DEA. The suicide rate will increase this year, as patients have few choices, go from pharmacy to pharmacy hoping one will have the medication they need, turn to the street, or end the pain.

Patients can only be treated like a drug addict, have the pharmacist tell you they might have the medicine you need next week, and go through withdrawals so many times, before they just give up.

Someone needs to be held responsible for the deaths, but until we take pain seriously, this won’t change.

I’m a former narcotics investigator, and chronic pain patient for 20+ years. Trust me, we can’t arrest our way out of this problem, because it’s a medical problem, not a law enforcement problem.


It seems that the pharmacies in the best parts of town have better supplies and go the extra mile to work with customers. As oppossed to those in the poorer parts of town, This is understandable due to the safety risks for pharmacy employees.


I had the same problem with opana and 10mg roxicodone. My pharmacy was out and I just could not put myself going to many different pharmacies getting belittled, having my script thrown back at me, so I laid in bed useless until I had no choice but to crawl back to my doctor to get a different script. Its not working out very well for any of us.


Arlene, I go to Walgreens hard to believe, my PM told me a long time ago, get to know your pharmacist and get to know them well. So I did just that, people have said Walgreens has asked why they need it, hell I told my pharmacist day one, 2 back surgeries, crohns disease 2 surgeries and COPD, she knows more about me then anybody, but she also told me when you get your prescriptions don’t just come in the day of and drop it off, I need a week or 2 notice. So I have done that ever since and when the day comes its there. I have heard and been thru the find the pharmacy shuffle because even then they used to be able to call other stores to see if they have it, they can’t do that now. Also I remember one time on a sunday they didn’t have it, it was a fluke, but we found one that did, and I was listening to this poor woman them saying we will have to talk to the doctor to get it approved. I have never felt so sorry for someone. Also I have read where that certain govt agency has shut pharmacies down for no reason in rural areas and people cannot get their meds and in one case, these people killed themselves instead of going thru the pain. I just hate the govt needs to have legislation protecting the real pain patients and the doctors. Just because of Florida and other bad doctors have caused more problems and should be shot in my opinion. They should just make them federally run. But even my PM has said that agency has come in and asked him, why isn’t this patient getting better? his answer? are your a doctor, NO, then shut the blank up. Hes been doing it for 20 years and he said hes seen people that will not get better, he said if it can help their quality of life then that’s what its for. That’s what they don’t get. I believe in Karma and when it hits these people, their the ones that are going to wish they never messed with doctors or the laws.

Kathy Riebeling

I have not yet had this problem, put I get heart palpitations every month, a week ahead of time, wondering if this is the month they tell me, “Nope, we’re out! I know I’m “preaching to the choir” here, but it’s unbelievable we have to suffer a lousy quality of life because we hunt, sometimes fruitlessly for relief. This on top of daily suffering for our various chronic pain conditions.


The bottles of these meds that the pharmacies had when the reclassification went into affect, had to be sent back to the manufacturers to have the labels changed.Combine that with this being almost the end of the year and the manufacturers have exhausted their quota of hydrocodone for the year and that is why many of the pharmacies are out.

Most people with children who take Schedule II meds for ADD, or adults who take these meds for their ADD are familiar with this problem. When it comes to the Schedule II ADD meds, it may be late Jan or Feb before they get any in. And all but a few of weeks of that time the children are in school. Adults that work, are working that entire time.

CHADD and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry created a coalition in 2011 to show the seriousness of the problem and to influence policies with the FDA and DEA who have oversight responsibilities regarding this issue. The DEA announced an increase in the 2012 quotas for 2 ADD meds. The quota for Ritalin was increased by 11%. But, according to the FDA website that reports and tracks drug shortages, there was a shortage of Ritalin from Feb 2013-Nov 2014. So I’m not sure if there is really anything regular people can do to prevent shortages of Schedule II meds.

It doesn’t seem to matter that pain meds as well sa ADD meds are needed for some people to be able to function. But, if not having these meds caused death, I have a feeling there wouldn’t be any more shortages.


Arlene — I am so sorry you had to go through this B.S. I hope your rheumatologist finds the right medication so you can feel better soon!

If you use the same pharmacy they ought to be in stock?


I’ve been trying a natural alternative called kratom so I don’t have to be in the situation you found yourself in anymore and it’s working very well. It’s legal most places and unlike narcotics it has never killed anyone. It is a plant related to the coffee plant.

I’ve been able to cut way back on the number of pain pills I use and I’m hoping to switch totally over if I possibly can so I don’t have to put up with the abuse from the doctors, the staff, the pharmacies. It also helps with physical symptoms from withdrawal if that is a problem.