My Story: “So Far, So Good”

My Story: “So Far, So Good”

By Tracy Cabanting

Tracy is a 37-year-old Reno, NV woman who wrote last week for the National Pain Report about her trepidation regarding an upcoming doctor visit and trip to the pharmacy to renew her pain medication. She tells us how the visits went.

I was prepared for battle! I felt like Furiosa behind the wheel hauling butt through the desert!

Bring it on!

I’m ready!

Tuesday afternoon I saw my doctor for my refills.  I had my Pain Journal from the last month to give him. I had the print of “Scared” (the column I wrote for the National Pain Report) to give him, and a few other ones that addressed pain patients losing their meds for no reason. Over and over, I repeated the speech I had come up with in my head ready to stand up for myself if he said he was going to reduce my pain meds. I know he would never take them away completely.

I’m glad to say I had nothing to worry about! My doctor kept my meds the same as they have been and said he sees no need to change them for the time being. That’s what makes me nervous “the time being”.  My doctor is a really cool dude and I was able to pour my heart out and voice all of my concerns about my pain meds and how fearful I am that he will change them only because he is being forced to.

Now I have to get past the pharmacist.  Just because I have the prescription in my hand does NOT mean it’s going to be filled at the pharmacy. By law, the pharmacist can choose to deny filling it. They can also call my doctor and demand to know why I am on these opioid pain meds, why the doctor has chosen to put me on them, and why I am on the dose and quantity I’m on. Luckily, the pharmacist at my usual pharmacy filled it with no problems and no issues! I always have issues with the place, too, so this was a big win for me!

While I am beyond relieved that I am still able to get my pain meds, after I got home and took a deep breath, it occurred to me that it is ridiculous that I feel I have to gear up for a fight each time I get them refilled. I’m pissed off that I am literally at the mercy of a pharmacist that controls whether I’m in pain or not because they may have a personal dislike towards opiod pain meds and therefore don’t think I should be using them so they aren’t going to fill my prescription.  How is this OK? Why is this amount of power and control being given to a person that is NOT a PHYSICIAN and may not understand anything they are being about my injury and overall condition of my lower back?

All this time, I was under the impression that doctors and pharmacists were to help people. I have always viewed them as being on the same team and people in our lives and community that we could trust and turn to in our times of sickness and need to aid us in getting better and maintaining a decent quality of life. Not anymore.  For now, I’m cool with my doctor, but I’m very leery of the pharmacy and the staff there. I will continue preparing to fight each time a refill is due. I will continue to stand my ground for the medications I need to get a bit of relief from my pain. I shouldn’t have to and it makes me so mad that this is the “new normal” for people like me.

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Authored by: Tracy Cabanting

There are 20 comments for this article
  1. Josephine Young at 2:26 pm

    I’ve been fighting with pharmacist in this state and where I was last at. When I moved here I found a pharmacy that was easiest to deal with and basically stuck with them. But I still had fights over too soon, too many, different doctor, etc. Then I was sent to a new pain management specialist for my pain meds. He put me on a pain contract, as usual for them now, and included he wanted me to only use a specific pharmacy that he works with. Now this is normal with pain contract since you have to stick with same everything including pharmacy for dea laws etc. However that’s NOT why he sent me to this pharmacy. He wanted me to use this pharmacy so that I would not be harassed or discriminated against as pain patient for opioid meds. They haven’t given me any problems or refused to fill. Even if it’s too soon for my state insurance they will let me fill without the insurance. Also if the dea or insurance needs a special authorization or physician statement for diagnosis needing meds, they don’t bother me about it, simply let the Dr office know immediately and they get whatever and fax back stat so I get my meds. I’ve had to wait a day here and there only because I waited for my insurance. Even after my surgery and having a surgeon giving the meds temporarily the pharmacy just asked about the reason for changes and put it through however they could. None of the staff look down their nose at me when I ask about my pain meds, nor have I felt like I’m being treated like I’m drug seeking, a drug addict, or anything other than a regular patient

  2. Brenda Waddell at 6:40 am

    I feel the same way I have had so much problems with my pharmacy assestent my Dr, has had trouble with her also.been using cvs for 20yrs now I have my husband pick up my meds due to the stress of going there! Looking for a new pharmacy in S.C. pains me!!

  3. Maureen at 11:00 am

    Jean Price, Perfectly said!! That’s it in a nutshell! Thank you, Maureen

  4. Jean Price at 12:49 am

    Tracy….Unfortunately your reaction speaks to how people who use pain medication are viewed and treated! We are seen as guilty until proven guilty!! Repetitive contracts which border on abusive, urine screens, pill counts, absolute control without so much as a one day leeway to fill prescriptions……all of this even after years, decades of appropriate, responsible use of medication, even after building “good” relationlationships, even with document after document proving our painful conditions. Nope, still we are GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY!! Forget that we are innocent, reliable, honest people whose only “crime” is being in pain!. Doesn’t matter, only rules matter, made by people motivated by money, power, and control. People who have no place to be dictating medical care.

  5. Dooney at 8:21 pm

    I feel so blessed to have an awesome pharmacy (grocery store) and pain mananagement physician. I cried the last time I picked up my med at the pharmacy because they don’t judge me, super nice and helpful. The other places I filled at, total jerks.
    It breaks my heart for everyone suffering with these issues. I would love to move back east where family lives to get more support for my chronic pain issues but I can’t leave as I would be terrified as I don’t know if I could even get an rx from a doctor for my meds or a pharmacy to fill it. All I read and watch anymore from Dateline to the nightly news, LA times are about the opiod epidemic. Not one story from ONE chronic pain patient and what their life is like. I used to like Dr Drew but all he spouts is how bad ALL narcotics are horrible and no one should take them. Again not one chronic pain who takes their meds responsibly who has a better life because not one of them is profiled. Also where are all the pain organizations, is anyone advocating for us.

  6. BL at 8:14 pm

    The law that gives pharmacist the right to refuse to fill prescriptions is Not just for opiates, it is for any prescription. Pharmacist go to school for many years, just like drs do. Drs are educated and trained to diagnosis and treat medical conditions. Pharmacists are educated and trained in medications. The education and training that drs receive about medications is very limited and no where near what pharmacists receive.

  7. scott michaels at 6:29 pm

    thats the thing. in most cases, depending on the state, nothing will change unless you are doc shopping, trying to getmeds too early, not passing a pee test because your taking other drugs or your NOT taking your.meds. that would mean your selling or giving away. As long as you have legit pain, especially with documentation your ok. I wont lie, When.i hurt i want to take extras but i give my wife my meds. She locks them in a safe and doles them out to me daily. Its easy to get messed up and i dont want.to so i utilize this precaution. I suggest anybody that has the resource, do as i do. If not find someone you can trust that you see.daily to dole them out
    I GUARANTEE YOULL NEVER RUN OUT AND YOULL NEVER BECOME A DRUG SEEKING ADDICT.

  8. Stephanie Williamson at 4:00 pm

    Glad all went well for you this time but unfortunately we shouldn’t be in this spot at all!!!! Chronic pain patients suffering and (I’m not a heartless person but dammit, state & federal government have this ALL messed up) their handing out narcan, not sure on spelling, like candy so addicts can get the best “high” ever n od but buy narcan so they can be brought right back n continue to do it over n over again!!!! It makes me sick!!!! But go ahead n rip away pain meds from responsible users, I could rant forever about these issues but I’ll stop now by saying at night when I pray it’s for EVERYONE, n please I’ve had a few people I know in past few months loose their lives to suicide from chronic pain n pain meds being taken away PLEASE SEEK HELP ASAP IF THIS COULD BE YOU U MATTER!!!! I don’t really have a sleep schedule so if anyone just wants to talk find me on Facebook I’m a good listener. Stephanie Crestani Williamson ☺

  9. Doug at 1:49 pm

    Thank you for your story. It truly explains the worry and stress that we all go through every month or two. This stress tends to tax our bodies and make the pain more extreme then it needs to be. No one should ever have to worry about feeling excruciating pain and having the only medications that reduce the pain being unjustly taken away from them.

    Our whole fight here has been for our right to receive proper pain relief. But I’m not sure if people who don’t suffer really understand how much stress effects our pain levels and all around health. Being not only a chronic pain sufferer, but also some who has heart disease and blood pressure problems. I know for a fact that because of the constant worrying that it has effected my blood pressure and caused me to have chest pain periodically. The oaths that physicians and pharmacists take is their promise to give the best possible medical treatment to guarantee the patient the best possible quality of life. The physicians working for the CDC and FDA have forgotten this. The day that politics started dictating health care was the very same day that doctors stated questioning their oaths.

  10. Rebecca at 10:30 am

    I think many of us feel the same way. Sometimes it’s as if we are doing something wrong just to get a little relief to work or take care of our home or spend time doing things with our family. Many times I’m reduced to tears during appointments from fear and frustration. I understand that laws have had to be enacted for safety but if we are routinely seeing our pain docs and adhering to the plan we have agreed upon then we should not have to feel like it’s us against the world just to have a bit of quality time in our day to day.

  11. Jane at 8:54 am

    Medication availability is very concerning to patients that need pain medication to just live a fairly normal life, most people can take for granted. Of course, it should only be between a Physician, who has been through years of school and accredited to take care of his patients in an intelligent, caring way. How can a Pharmacist deny what a Physician has ordered? They are not the caregivers, but their role is to assist the Physician in his decisions what is best for his patient. Same thing for Big Government interference, to make pain patients feel like criminals or drug abusers because of pain issues that cannot be cured, cannot be mediatated away, cannot be controlled without medication. It’s not that people in pain wish to have to take medications to have some activity in life, that most outsiders not affected by unending pain have no idea what pain patients go through without their medications, as you cannot “see” pain, but you most definitely FEEL IT! It’s bad enough to have a pain condition without adding the fear factor that increases pain through the anxiety of what “next” month brings. The recent attack on pain medications is being brought forth by people that have only one side to tell, not patients, they are lobbying for more people in their facilities to cure addictions and abuse (make money) , government officials that have not adequately interviewed Doctors and experts that are knowledgeble with treating pain, but only a “select” few that again, have addiction treatment centers to “make money”. It is not a fair fight, and it’s not a fight genuine pain patients should have to endure.

  12. Cathy M at 7:50 am

    I’m so glad it worked out, this time. I totally agree – why has medical treatment become an adversarial one?? I think the root cause is the corporate healthcare for-profit system that has sprung up as business realized the profits that can be made from sick people. I’m not trying to be political, but if you look at the history of medicine just in the past 40 years (I’m 60 – I remember), you can see enormous changes, and I fear that the technological strides have masked the backwardization of doc-patient interaction. We are just commodities, and unfortunately so are the doctors and other staff! We are all being milked for our profit margin (and those of us with little margin get shunted aside). I just discovered that because I was eligible for “extra Medicare assistance” with my prescriptions (a good thing, I thought), I had to get the “premier” package of my insurance and not just pay increased monthly fee (not huge) but apparently ALL my copays, co-insurances, etc. have gone up A LOT! (for example, from $100/ambulatory procedure to $175/per) Now I have to spend a half day going over all the numbers to see if “the assistance” is even worth it!!! It’s a shell game and the more we press for transparencies, the harder it is to parse, IMO.

    Anyway, I can totally empathize – I am going to see my sleep doc and my primary in June, and both times will be on pins and needles in case either decides “it’s time to ramp down” – I’ve got something that has worked for 20 years, and each time I fear my whole life will be savaged by a half-thought impulse or a need to toe the company line!! That is wrong – for the docs and for me!

  13. Carol Hammond at 7:32 am

    Tracy, you are pro-active like me. You seem to have the mental capabilities to ready yourself for battle I use to bu TV still try. I’m sure that you are respectful and keep to the facts too. That is so important to do. What is it “they” say “kill them with kindness!

    I too feel that my pain Dr is going to stop my medicine although I don’t know how he can. No one is talking about DNA, my pain Dr asked if I would take one and I did. For me it was good saying I didn’t have a addictive personality and if I say I have pain it is understated. I am wondering if this is a real tool for my Dr and myself. Is anyone being asked to take a DNA?

    I still have a feeling something negative is about to happen.

  14. Dinah Gray at 7:25 am

    Know EXACTLY how you feel Tracy & I have exactly the same issues!! I have had a pharmacist refuse to fill all my meds before. He treated me like an addict or drug seeker…..humiliating!! Not even willing to call my doc. I’ve had many others do everything they could to try to not fill my meds…such as writing letters to my doctor about their “concerns”….nit even knowing that I had been stable on these meds for 15 YEARS!! When I finally told my doc (at the time) he asked me what pharmacy I wanted to use. I told him I really couldn’t think of one that I hadn’t already tried & had the same problems with. He named a pharmacy…& I said no…that that was one I hadn’t tried. (Because the pharm is located inside a hospital…it is very hard to find parking…& then I have to walk a good ways & back and they are closed on weekends & at 5:30pm on weekdays.) So my doc picked up the phone right then, called the pharmacist….told him he was sending me over with several RX’s for strong meds. Told him there were no abuse issues invovled, that I had been on these meds long term because my medical condition requires them & told him he needed him to fill my meds. The pharmacist said no problem. It SHOULD NOT TAKE THAT for us to get our meds filled. These pharmacists know nothing about our conditions & they are NOT DOCTORS!!! It infuriates me that pharmacists now think they sre doctors & are on a power trip too!!
    Incidentally, I last saw that same doc (my PCP of 17 years) in 3/15. The vidit went as usual, we talked, had my lab work done & he told me & wrote on mt receipt to return in 3 months (as usual.) One week later I got a letter from him by certified mail saying he was dropping me as a patient, no reason given, & that “your medical condition requires that you place yourself under the care of another physician without delay.” I was again infuriated & confused. I had to immediately start tapering down in my meds & supervise my own withdrawals from these strong, hi dose meds that I had been on for years (something that should be done in a hospital setting!). My 2 sisters then got on the phone & started calling all the PCP’s in my insurance provider network. It took 5 MONTHS to find ONE that said they would accept me. Time after time my sisters were told that either the docs were not accepting new patients or they weren’t accepting Medicare patients! The one that finally accepted me is terrible. He has NO interest in learning about my disease & he would only give me 3 of the 7 meds I had been on….& 2 of those only at 1/3 the dose I had been on. He stated, “The goal is to get u off of these meds.” And that continues to date!! So I have been.stuck back in bed for a year now!! Thanks a lot guys!!
    I fully agree with you! Why do docs & pharmacists even go into the helping professions where they hold people’s lives in their hands…but they don’t want to help!! I spent my career (b4 I became totally disabled) in one of the helping professions where i held the lives of children in my hands…no matter what that took!! I would have been fired from my job had I done the things these docs have done to us!!!
    We should not have to go this preparation & anxiety every time we have a drs appt or have to get scripts filled!! They are running scared of the CDC, DEA, & FDA!! Whimps, I say!! I had to do whatever I had to do…no matter what the powers that be said…in order to protect my kids. Yes, stuff I could have lost my license over. But I didn’t care. Those children’s lives were much more important than me losing my license (& I would argue) i was going to protect & take care of them NO MATTER WHAT!! Too bad that the people that hold our lives in their hands don’t feel the same way….despite being in a helping profession! I hope they can sleep at night after what they have done. All the while as I lie in bed unable to sleep & in pain…
    Am soo glad ur doc listened to you this time & that u got ur needed meds! Now time to start preparing for next month’s visit…yet again!! Whatever happened to logic & common sense???

  15. MARTHA ARNTSON at 6:39 am

    Tracy, thanks for writing this. I could have written the exact same feelings regarding my experiences with the Doctor and Pharmacy. One hurdle at a time, first the doctor, if you make it through that, with no changes in meds, your next hurdle is always the Pharmacy! No matter how long I’ve been going to the ONE AND ONLY PHARMACY I HAVE EVER USED here, I am still under horrible stress to even walk in the door and present my prescription for the month. Over and over it goes, “Lemme check, see if we have THAT MANY”, or “We won’t have any of THAT medication until……”, or “We need to call the Doctor, she didn’t write the this or that right on the RX”. Thus, every month, the anxiety of that day is overwhelming at times. Last month my Doctor scolded me (loudly) about how “I can’t have the Pharmacy calling me and telling me you have been trying to fill early”!! Me: What? I have never filled early! Doctor: Well the Pharmacy called on the last script and said you were there to fill it. Me: NO, I dropped it off the day you wrote it knowing it couldn’t be filled until 2 more days. Doctor: Well, I can’t have them calling me like that, therefore I am not writing anymore scripts for you for your medication. Me: Ok. As I drove home, I was not only humiliated at the entire office visit but decided I will no longer be treated in this manner, by anyone. Now I am free of the Pharmacy, due to my own due-diligence in taking charge of my health/pain issues. I am fine with no opiate medication, just the Butrans Patch and the Muscle Relaxers. However, I do understand people have severe on-going 24/7 pain that can’t be controlled this way. To them I feel so bad that they, as you and I have experienced, have to be put through this every month. It’s gotten so bad, I fear going to my appointment next week as to what the Doctor is going to harass me about this time?

  16. Maureen at 6:13 am

    Tracy, I can relate…since I moved to Florida from CT. 18 months ago I go through that every single month. Had I known…I never would’ve moved here. I was well established with my Pain management doctor and pharmacy up north.
    Plus, the docs here do not discuss anything with me, have never reviewed my history nor examined me! And they have put me on several different meds over time (guinea pig!) without even asking me if I’m interested (which I’m not! I prefer what I know works for me best!) which only brought on suffering with side effects plus increased pain each time. I feel like I’ve been in a war zone with it all.
    Dealing with the pharmacy each month is also another story! The stress and fear that this whole issue has caused us all only adds to our pain.
    Three months ago I finally found a new doctor (although young and inexperienced) but she listened very well and troubleshoots with you. I saw her this week for the 3rd time…SHE TOLD ME THAT SHE IS LEAVING THE GROUP SHE IS WITH!! since she can’t deal with their rules and money making focused ways and lack of compassion for the patients etc. I refuse to see anyone else in that group…been there, done that with them already. She is a piece of heaven there!
    So, I’m now scrambling to find yet another new doctor for next month since she will be going 2 hours away from me. And possibly having my med changed again!
    It truly is exhausting and only brings on new fears.
    I’d give anything to be without the meds and have to deal with all of this each and every month! But, I need them to function and have a little bit of life.
    Keep strong, keep positive…that’s the best we can do.

  17. Janet Komanchuk at 5:28 am

    So sad that those who are truly in pain and under a physician’s care have to add to their stress the obstacle course of simply trying to carry out an authorize treatment plan! We all know how stress exacerbates pain, don’t we?

  18. Danny at 5:09 am

    My suggestion (not that you asked) is to gather all of the pertinent information about your condition, find a locally owned & operated pharmacy. Schedule an appointment with the owner/head pharmacist (usually not necessary but much appreciated) and discuss your condition and your doctor’s treatmens. After 25 years of dealing with doctors, pharmacists and insuranceccompanies, I have found that a small, locally-owned pharmacy is far more accommodating and understanding than the “Big 2”. Once they get to know you, you may find that the pharmacist even goes to battle for you, helping deal with insurance issues and the like. That’s my experience, at least. Good luck with future “battles”!

  19. marty at 4:04 am

    Isn’t it awful that we have to get ourselves worked up like this every time we need refills on our medicines. I too go thru what you do and get the same responses from my doctor. I can’t believe going to the drug store monthly makes me go thru such a emotional turmoil which by all factors just makes my pain double the pain and anxiety. I’m to old to be put thru this monthly cr*p.

  20. Venita at 3:11 am

    It is because of fears like these that I try to remember to take an anti-anxiety med before I go to the DR.