My Story: Getting the Evil Eye

My Story: Getting the Evil Eye

We’re so quick to blame the “Dr. Shopper” for the inequitable treatment we endure at the pharmacy.

Let’s look at a few examples:

Kurt W.G. Matthies

Kurt W.G. Matthies

1. Why am I required to produce a photo ID for my opioid pain meds? I don’t need to show it for my other medications.

2. Why am I registered with the state prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP)? I don’t particularly want anyone with access to the system to have my private medical information. We all know how well the feds, states, and other big organizations protect our electronic data, don’t we? PDMPs are another police intrusion into our private lives.

3. Why do I get the evil eye when I present scripts for oxycodone or OxyContin? Is that part of the customer service? Do they teach mind reading in pharmacy school? Would it make your job easier if I wore an orange jumpsuit and carried a large bag labeled SWAG over my shoulder?

4. Why am I asked, “Why do you see a doctor 40 miles from your home?” Is the pharmacist really that ignorant about the problems faced by chronic pain patients in obtaining their meds, or is this another trick question designed to catch me in my act of fraud and deceit in obtaining a controlled substance?

5. When presenting scripts for Exalgo and hydromorphone, why am I asked, “Why do you receive two Rx’s for the same medication?” Don’t pharmacists get training in chronic pain management? Why the ignorance about long acting and short acting medication? Or is this another secret DEA trick to catch us in a lie?

I do not consider any of this nonsense as an adjunct to my health care. Frankly, I’ve been using these medications since before most pharmacists behind the counter were out of diapers.

When you ask questions about the location of my doctor, why I have two different formulations of opioid Rx, or ask for my driver’s license — all with a counter full of people watching — you are violating my privacy in public. These are my neighbors, and now they know that you, the pharmacist, have suspicions about me.

It’s not doctor shoppers who cause my problems. It’s pharmacists who believe they should know everything about my business before they put my pills in a bottle. You see, it’s the pharmacist’s license that’s really important here, not the patient’s privacy, dignity or health.

Cover thy rear end, medical professional.

The respect I once had for pharmacists is now reserved for those few individuals who know why they’re behind the counter and what’s important in running a pharmacy counter. These individuals, fewer and far between, have compassion for my chronic pain and whatever other disease I may have that underlies my condition. They take the extra care not to shame me in front of my neighbors, because according to the War on Drugs, anyone who takes certain medications should be ashamed. That’s what we’ve been conditioned to believe, and in my experience, pharmacists are the worst.

You have lost my respect for you and your “profession” because you’ve lost your respect for fellow human beings who suffer in pain. To me, you’re pill counters.

I’ve seen Reddit’s message board for pharmacists, where I’ve read the opinions of some of the most cynical people I’ve ever encountered – pharmacists speaking about “druggies.” Folks, if you want to know what your pharmacist thinks of you, see for yourself at http://www.reddit.com/r/pharmacy

My records go back over 20 years in one large pharmacy system. If the pharmacist is concerned about my ability to breath with my opiate dose, why doesn’t she look up my record of usage instead of asking me — in a store full of my neighbors — why I have two prescriptions for the same opioid medication?

Dr. Shoppers don’t cause me trouble. The DEA is causing me trouble. Pharmacists doubling as DEA agents are causing me trouble. And you’re both about as effective in stopping diversion as the regulators were in stopping the flow of alcohol during Prohibition, except in those days our cops didn’t dress like commandos.

Is this the kind of world you want? We’re moving towards martial law at the airport — why not the pharmacy? Continue to cooperate and echo back the answer what the storm troopers parrot on national TV: “We’re winning the War on Drugs.”

I’m an old man. I’ve heard this lie since the Nixon administration.

I know better. You’re violating my privacy, stealing my freedom, limiting my ability to receive treatment, and have driven the cost of inexpensive pain medication up 500% and 1000% in the past two years.

My apologies to my pharmacists and the other good men and women in the field who understand the tragic loss of freedom that we’re witnessing daily in this country.

12_7.jpgKurt W.G. Matthies lives in Colorado. He suffers from severe chronic spine disease and has lived daily with chronic pain for 35 years.

National Pain Report invites other readers to share their stories with us.

Send them to editor@nationalpainreport.com

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.

Authored by: Kurt W.G. Matthies

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BL

The federal law and state law requires they verify your ID. They may have incorporated it into store policy, but even if they haven’t it must be done.

And I was just wondnrieg about that too!

Kurt W.G. Matthies

JL, good thought, but that’s not how it’s done at my local big-box pharmacy.

When I arrive with my 3 or 4 Rxs each month, they request my ID, before anything is filled. They either copy it or more likely fax it somewhere (I can sometimes hear the fax dial noise.)

Then after a little processing, they return my driver’s license and I go on my merry way.

When I later pick up the my Rx bottles, I’m asked for a token, like my DOB or home address before I receive the bag of medications.

A little background…I’ve been using this particular pharmacy for over 3 years, and before moving here, I used this same big-box pharmacy chain (the former store located about 25 miles from here) for over 10 years.

When I arrive with my monthly cache of 3 or 4 scripts, the techs and/or regular pharmacists all know me by sight…. “Hello, Mr. Matthies. How are you today?” “Fine thank you… how are you?”

Then we go through the photo ID protocol I just described.

This practice does not prevent “identity theft” as you surmise. Instead, it protects the big pharmacy chain from our regulators, politicians, the press, and general public who hold prejudices against the use of opioid-based medications by those of us who suffer from chronic pain.

It allows them to say “we’re doing all we can to prevent diversion. Look at the protocols we have in place.” This happens to be the same chain that “profiles” its customers to assist pharmacy workers in detecting “drug seekers.” That profile was published here for all to read within the past 6 months or so. (Ed. Please provide URL).

I am a person with chronic pain, treated with medications by a licensed physician for my illness, and yet I am discriminated against by my pharmacy.

I object to this practice.

JL

Just wondering how you would feel if somebody else came in and picked up your narcotic prescription and the pharmacy did not ask them for a photo ID…..would you not blame the pharmacy for failing to ensure the person’s identity? The photo ID requirement is to protect the patient from fraud. What if somebody stole your paper prescription and got it filled somewhere? Wouldn’t the pharmacy be at fault for not checking that their ID matched the name on the prescription? And although it is rare for someone to use identity theft to say, obtain another person’s hemorrhoid cream, there is a market out there for every pharmaceutical product, not just controlled substances. Many pharmacies ask for photo ID for picking up any prescription to protect their customers.

Kurt W.G. Matthies

I’m getting ready to take and airplane trip tomorrow and it is really freaking me out. I’m anticipating pain — something my pain psychologist would advise me against — and have actually dug into the dark recesses of my safe to find some 4 year old Xanax tablets that seem to be helping a little with anxiety. (The last time I used these pills was when I was doing battle with the IRS!) I have read each and every comment and would like to reply to you personally. Perhaps someday we’ll be able to converse using this site, or another especially designed to organize chronic painers around the world. Let me tell you collectively that I have felt the abandonment, betrayal, frustration, and of course, the pain that you all feel, but today I feel honored and in love with you all. I am proud to be associated with this group — even those who did not comment and do not agree with me. We share an interest in pain and in compassion. In feeling and showing our compassion, we may be expressing the highest emotion felt by a human being, and perhaps, the real reason why we are all here together on this planet filled with the paradox of unimaginable beauty and horror. We are all pain warriors (or, as described recently by a friend on another site, pain samurai). But we are not, as in the traditional Japanese story, a small band of 47 Ronin living without a leader, waiting for our day of justice. There are 100 million of us in America and perhaps 3 billion according to the National Pain Foundation (NPF), an organization being resurrected by my friend and former pain doctor Daniel Bennett, MD. of Golden, CO. The NPF will fight for those who live in pain and who feel the compassionate call to treat pain. We travel together in the same boat of denial, derision, and disrespect by our fellow citizens who do not understand chronic pain and fear us and our opioid treatment options. Even if are not treated with opioids (or survive on a very small dose), you are disrespected as one living with chronic pain, as if you are somehow at fault for your disease, and therefore deficient as a human being. I speak of the National Pain Foundation as being resurrected because it has a history, and I encourage my fellow pain warriors to explore this history. Because of the NPF, my treatment options for pain expanded in the 1990s and 2000s. Because the NPF was attacked, destroyed, and ultimately defeated in 2007, my treatment options are being limited and threatened weekly. And coincidentally, we see a reported increase in opioid analgesic related mortality during this same period. What does that mean? Dr. Dan and the NPF need your help, your emotional support, your money, your prayers, your ideas — whatever you are willing to invest. Believe me — I’ve been to Dan’s new office (about 1/4 the size… Read more »

Kellix

Kurt: I know what you mean, My doctor just switched me over from oxycodome to Dilaudid. First question from the pharmacist, why? Because hes switching me, you want to call him and invade my rights some more? See I am one of the people that still go to Walgreens, if the regular head pharmacist was there, she is cool. My PM told me right off the bat, your going to go to the same place all the time you better get to know the pharmacist and I have, I told her I had 2 back surgeries last one failed and in the same year I got crohns BAD, I had to have 2 surgeries for it, I ever showed her my scars. She is sorry for me and is very nice and its funny she tells me stuff that regular pharmacists will not. Well shes on vacation and the reason why I’m switching is because Walgreens got this GARBAGE generic oxycodone made by KVK and it barely passes the DEAs test, they bought a ton of it but its garbage, my doctor got me supplied with Watson 10MG 325s that were better than a 15. That’s where it makes me mad because your thinking they give you the right meds and suddenly their not doing squat. my doctor said he had patients come back and say these things are like taking chicklets. They don’t do a damn thing and what its make us look like we take too much for it to take effect and then if you got a jerk doctor suddenly you broke the rules your on subboxen or on the street, or you have a good doctor like mine that has seen there is a bunch of bad medicine out there. Why hes switching me but I went to 5 walgreens nobody had the amount of dilaudid, so i’m waiting in pain on oxycontin. my pharmacy would order for me, but if you just walked in, good chance they would say sorry were out. Why if they don’t have it tomorrow I’m calling my doctor to go to a private pharmacy that I know has it and all. That’s the thing on here the govt agency that says its not bothering the doctors that’s full of sh-t my doctor says they come there and audit them. Also my friend he had a PM that was 71 he chased a agent out of his office with a handgun and ended up having to retire because they said he was giving out too much. What gets me is this, this guy has been doing it for 35 years and some kid is telling him your doing it wrong? Whose the doctor? I swear if some of them met a baseball bat right in one of their discs and had to go thru surgery and put up with what we have to they would be crying their brains out. There needs to be legislation, to protect doctors and chronic pain… Read more »

BL

Janice Reynolds, if someone isn’t on Medicaid, they don’t believe any of the Medicaid policies will ever effect them. But, you are right, the denial of pain meds, as well as Pain Management in some states for chronic pain is reaching out to touch those not on Medicaid. People know that Medicaid is paid for by the givernment. They just seem to forget the same givernment also pays for the. DEA, FDA, etc.

I wonder how many people that belong to this site and others like it can tell you what laws where passed in their state the last time their legislature was in session that affect chronic pain patients ? I also wonder how many of those same people have made an appointment with their state & federal senators & state & federal representatives and taken a day off of work for that appointment ?

I seriously doubt things will ever change. The time to stop what is going on with chronic patients now, was before laws were passed. Like it or not, it really is too late.

Janice Reynolds

This is another example of a volley in the war against people with persistent pain. It is based on prejudice and bias as well as misconceptions. Here in Maine there is a move to not allow opioids for persistent pain. The MaineCare program was the start and now there is a group looking to educate prescribers on not using opioids. It has already had an affect. One of its members was quoted as saying part of the education is teaching people with pain that they can’t get rid of all the pain-they have to learn to live with it. I know most of us are very aware you can’t get rid of all the pain; we just want enough relief to have a decent quality of life. Another thing I have heard recently (on their attacks on the IOM’s report on Chronic Pain in America) is opioids shouldn’t be used for common pains like back pain and arthritis. Of course none of this comes from those who are true experts in pain and pain management whether pharmacists, nurses, or physicians.

brenda Alice

Thank you for sharing what all chronic pain patients do through each month. Please see pharmacies Steve blogs for helpful links. Glad you got your medication. I was lied to and refused. Forget privacy. Police in Tennessee can pull medication up to a year at any traffic stop. Criminals have attorney’s at least. Thanks again for speaking up for us

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Margo

Kurt,
I agree 100%. We could discuss this for hours! Too bad I’m not in Colorado! This country has already changed and our rights are disappearing daily. Nobody seems to notice. Scary.

Kay Louise

Great article. Criminals and addicts are gonna continue to get drugs by illegal means, no matter what. Doctors and pharmacists are only following the rules and regulations placed upon them. If they speak up to defend patients’ rights, they can get fired for insubordination. Not only has the government made it more difficult for chronic pain sufferers to get meds, but they’ve turned dr’s and pharmacists into talking robots who care more about their jobs than the health of a patient. And it is a definite invasion of a patient’s privacy to discuss one’s diagnosis and medicine treatment so openly in front of others. There should at least be a consultation ROOM at all pharmacies for such discussions. But this all goes back to the DEA and the gov’t getting involved where it shouldn’t! I pray that everyone involved in the DEA or this war on drugs will suffer from chronic pain in the future. Let’s see how they like it!

Rainey

Pharmacists are like cops. Sometimes you get lucky and find a cool one who lets you pass; sometimes you get a stickler for every little detail. If you are really unlucky, you get one who is hell bent on making your life miserable.

Most of the RPH’s don’t want to play cop.. and they probably more fear loosing their jobs than their license. There is a growing surplus of RPH’s.. 10 yrs ago each RPH graduating had 3-5 job offers before graduating.. today one out of 3 won’t have a job lined up by graduation.. and the annual surplus is growing. The DEA is fining corporations and that is where the RPH’s fear is coming from.. and the fines are not consistent nor the amount has any rhyme or reason.. here is an example http://www.pharmaciststeve.com/?p=6339
IMO.. the DEA and law enforcement doesn’t really wish to give healthcare professionals the tools to help to isolate the legit pts from the bogus ones.. we spend 51 billion annually in fighting this war on drugs and that provides a lot of paychecks to those fighting this war.
Here is something that I recently wrote about how easy it would be to use existing databases to accomplish this… will it happen anytime soon.. probability…. zero or less…
http://www.pharmaciststeve.com/?p=6357

BL

If not having chronic pain treated could be a direct cause of death, it would be different. But medically you don’t die from chronic pain. I know the arguments and I understand them. But, medically no one has died from chronic pain. They may die from what is causing it, but not the chronic pain itself.

Lorene Ann Gonzalez

Mr. Matthies, you are spot on. We have very similiar issues. I’m so sick and tired of pharmacist playing God, doctor,judge and jury. Its a sick feeling I suffer every time I have to refill my opiods. I’m on time, I submit to a drug test as required at my PMD office, have been on these meds for way over ten years and I take them appropriatly. But that’s not enough. The medical assistant always seems amazed at my bp and pulse is always high when I go in for a refill. Really? Its no wonder why. The problem also has to do with the media. How many true druggies are harold as some type of hero because they kicked a fifty pill a day addiction, which they never had any business taking in the first place! It makes for great television. And its always followed off with the newsperson warning US about the dangers of rx meds! Really? Well, I think its “high” time we true pain suffers get a lil air time and let the world know, what their stories of addiction has caused us. We are the ones that get to py for their crimes. Maybe Oprah or someone can start to focus on us. And our lives can be just a bit easier, as its hard enough to live with chronic pain. Let’s do this!!

NY

It’s the attitude that’s the problem. Pharmacists and doctors being made into or are behaving like policemen. The root cause of this atmosphere is the “law” or shall we call it “dictates” and people (i.e. pharmacists, doctors) too scared or too stupid to speak up and defend what it right.

And why in the world would it make any difference whatsoever HOW someone pays? This is blatant intrusion into folk’s personal affairs.

Yes, we know that everything is linked and every move we make is being observed, recorded, and shared. This is more proof that citizens’ privacy and freedom have been obliterated. It’s gone.

Jaswars

Kurt,
Another Great story on the obvious DEA’S Illegal intrusion into legitimate chronic pain sufferers like us going through this terror tunnel only to be treated inhumanely with no dignity and zero respect. Hopefully one of our wonderful politicians up on the hill will someday have the balls to come forward and enact new laws that will afford us protections from this illegal discrimination as patients whom rely on our “Life giving” medications that barely get us throw a day without PAIN.

BL

It isn’t the Pharmacist decision to ask for your Photo ID, it is the Law when receiving meds of a certain schedules. Pharmacists do not receive any extra education in chronic pain management any more than they receive it for ADHD/ADD.The PMP only has certain schedules of meds someone takes listed. The info they have is your name, DOB, address, drs name, address, name of med, strength, directions, how long it is suppose to last, number of refills if any. Each state determines how long after filling that info has to be put in. Each state also determines who has the authority to view the info in the PMP database. Not just anyone can view it. In some states law enforcement can without going though the courts. Health insurance companies also have access to it in some states.In some states they also have the manner you pay for the med in the PMP info. The info that goes into each state PMP is determined by state laws. Most of the states are now linked to each others PMP.