My Story: The Pharmacy Can Be a Real Pain

My Story: The Pharmacy Can Be a Real Pain

By Katelyn O’Leary

Katelyn OLeary dress

Katelyn O’Leary

Sometimes I think the worst experience in the world for a pain patient (and others) is being placed on hold for a pharmacy or doctor’s office. The cheerful music they play seems to mock your need to speak to a human being instead of an automated system. And when you finally do get someone on the line, rarely is your concern reflected back to you. A bored voice on the other line tells you to hold or that they can’t help you.

I spend around 15 hours each week dealing with pharmacies, insurance issues, and doctor’s offices. Here’s an example:

Doctor / Specialist’s office

Me: I’m calling because CVS said they did not receive a refill order for my prescription.

Medical assistant / nurse: We faxed it over last night. But we will send it again.

Me: They said they didn’t receive anything.

On the flip-side:

CVS

Me: I am calling regarding my [insert medication name] refill?

Pharmacy: We haven’t received the insurance verification form from your doctor’s office.

Me: But they said they faxed it over to you!

Pharmacy: [bored voice] Ma’am you’re going to have to call them and have them fax it over.

Me: Why didn’t you call me to tell me there was an issue with my refill?

Pharmacy [confused and irritated]: We don’t do that.

These are real conversations I’ve had with doctor’s offices and CVS. The bottom line is this: communication between pharmacies and doctors is unbelievably bad, to the point of negligence. Exhausted or overwhelmed by the sheer volume of patients, pharmacies are not in the business of caring or following up. They are only interested in the fiscal bottom line.

And there’s this:

Last year I went to seven different pharmacies in Los Angeles to fill a Percocet prescription! Each pharmacy told me they didn’t have enough pills. I went home finally and looked up pharmacies to call instead. Driving is extremely painful for me so I try limit my driving as much as possible. I called five more pharmacies and they all said they had no Percocet in stock. I asked the pharmacy employee how this could be possible. What she said next absolutely astounded me.

“We lie to people on the phone because we only get a certain amount of pain medications a month and we don’t want to give out the number and have an increase in customers. Also we don’t want to get knocked over (robbed).”

When she finished, I was so angry I could feel the phone shaking in my hand. As I yelled my head off about how detrimental, insensitive, and medically unethical this secret company mantra was, my friend had to take the phone out of my hand.

The number of people that need these medications is astronomically larger than the number who don’t and pursue them for illegal purposes. I heard a statistic at the CRPS conference in Long Beach that 99 out of 100 chronic pain patients who use their opioids as prescribed do not become addicted.  But because of the actions of a few, pharmacies often treat legitimate pain patients as drug seekers.

While I think many pharmacists care, the people they work for do not appear to have the patient’s best interest at heart.

When I told the same pharmacy tech that driving is difficult for me and I need to be kept informed in order to plan my travel, she repeated again that it was not in their job description to keep me informed beyond just a “your refill is ready” text message.

Patients cannot and should not be the “liaisons” between pharmacies and doctors. Spending hours on the phone because the tech couldn’t be bothered or because your doctor’s office is swamped with calls isn’t conducive to one’s health.

Ultimately patients have to take their medical care into their own hands. But when we are fighting flare-ups and severe illness, we depend on our pharmacies and doctors to take care of us.   We need to return to that ideal, instead of having patients spend hours on the phone each week fighting for their medications and care.

 Editor’s Note; Katelyn O’Leary lives in Los Angeles and works in the entertainment industry. She was injured playing sports in college and has CRPS. She is frequent contributor to the National Pain Report.

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

There are 20 comments for this article
  1. Elise at 7:49 pm

    I am very sympathetic to all of these problems people are having. I must have really lucked out when I started going to a smaller Walgreen’s about 12-13 years ago. I get all my meds there, which include many that are not scheduled. In all of those years, I have never once encountered a problem with getting any of them, including the opioids (plus xanax, muscle relaxers, etc).

    A couple of years back, there was a phase where they were having problems with the timing of their order of my long-acting opioid and the date I needed refills. It lasted for a few months. I told my doctor and just went to another pharmacy for a few months. I ended up speaking to the head pharmacist at Walgreen’s about it, because it was inconvenient to go to this other one just for one medication, and he said he would make sure he would make sure I got this med going forward and to call him directly if I had any other problems. After that, I went back to getting it every month at Walgreen’s and haven’t had a problem since.

    The other thing I haven’t encountered at this particular Walgreen’s is any attitude from any of the pharmacy staff about my meds. The techs and pharmacists are always very nice and friendly and never express any judgment over the meds I take. They did have one bad tech a few years ago, but he didn’t stick around too long.

    After reading about so many problems people have at pharmacies, I think it must simply be due to the fact that I have gotten so many drugs from this one store for so many years that they know that I am not someone they have to have any concerns about. I feel very fortunate in that regard, because dealing with chronic pain is hard enough as it is.

  2. Wendy hart at 7:57 am

    Here we go again with government interference in the relationship between me and my doctor. I am angry, frustrated and hurt that, once again, I am having fo fight this invisible force that is making arbitrary regulations regarding my ability to obtain my legally prescribed medication, simply because others have abused their use of the meds. The only pharmacy I can find that actually carries the medication—and w/who I have been dealing w/for several years, now tells me that they will no longer fill my prescription. The explanation was that, because they had distributed more narcotics in comparison to non-narcotic meds, then the government has come down on them and said they they needed to limit their dispensing of the narcotics. I only have the one med that I get filled there, and it is a narcotic. Then, here comes the really enraging aspect of the matter– if I was getting more “regular” meds from them/had transfered all of my other prescription meds to them, then they could continue to fill it. I don’t have a problem w/that, but the pharmacist still refused to fill my next prescription, saying that it was too late for that remedy. I don’t understand. I have never given them any reason the doubt me–she (the pharmacist) even went out of her way two months ago to help me get a med that is very difficult to obtain. (she sold me the last she had of the med, but said that she couldn’t order any more. so I was able to get the pharmacist at Walgreen’s to order that one for me) So, now I am having to, once again, hustle and struggle to find a pharmacy that carries the med and who will actually order it for me before my nexy doctor’s appointment.

  3. Joe DiCapo at 5:08 am

    Thank you for writing this story Katelyn. Many of us understand this and have understood for many years. I completely understand the opiod and opiate crisis taking over our country. I also understand what it is like living w 8 herniated discs (4 inoperable) spinal stenosis, radiculopathy, chronic severe spasms and chronic tension headaches stemming from my cervical spine pathology. I have a 4 year degree in political science but I also feel like I have earned an MD after all the hours I have spent researching and better understanding my conditions and these medications that I use everyday. Here are just a few thoughts I have regarding this issue.

    -NOT ALL PEOPLE WHO USE PAIN MEDICATION ARE JUNKIES! This to me needs to be #1 if public perception is ever to change.

    – People who use these medications that truly need them and who truly experience a better quality of life have a very small chance of becoming addicted. Please note I use the word addicted. Any person who uses these medications over time will develop a tolerance and dependence which in no way is addiction. I.E. is a diabetic “addicted”to insulin?

    -Pharmacists must stop playing the role of DR. I have complete confidence in the doctors that I choose. If a Dr. has issued me a prescription for an issue that we have discussed it is up to pharmicist to check for any possible drug interactions and allergy issues and then FILL IT! Not decide that they all of a sudden have more experience in neurological surgery or understand the clinical side of pain management better than a physician who is boarded in PM, Anesthesiology, Psychology and Addictionology! If you want to play Dr. Please go back to school because I trust my Drs… I didn’t pick them out of a hat!!

    -Stop lying to patients! It would not be ok with you if they were lying to you so why is it ok for you to lie to them? If you have the medication but you are not comfortable filling or its a new patient and you only have enough for your existing patients please be honest and counsel them on this issue not lie to my face!

    Finally patients….

    EDUCATE YOURSELF, sound like you take it serious. Demonstrate your knowledge with your physician and pharmacists. You can never know too much!

    Find a mom and pop pharmacy and make friends…. it does not always have to be a mom and pop but thats where you tend to get your more individualized attention. Dont just hand them your script… engage them in conversation, demonstrate your knowledge showing your not just another junkie that they have seen 5x already that day, make them know who you are, what your conditions are, what your quality of life is like. Make them involved in your care. Ask for suggestions ask questions, it makes a difference. I used to have to do the dreaded pharmacy crawl every month for a year. Then I found a small pharmacy with a great family owned pharmacy team and I have not had any issue in years having my meds filled…

    The good people who need these medicines must stand up and have our voices heard over all the overdose and death voices. People need to be eduacted that the people who need these meds are not the ones abusing and overdosing from it!

  4. Katelyn O'Leary at 3:29 pm

    To the pharmacists: thank you so much for your input and advice. It’s good to hear from the other side! I think you have given quality information and a lot to consider. So thank you.

    To everyone else: thank you for your responses and for sharing your experiences. This is so important and spreading awareness and our stories will better inform the public and other chronic pain sufferers

  5. Amy, PharmD at 10:36 am

    As a pharmacist, it makes me sad to hear how any patient (not just a chronic pain patient) is treated by my colleagues around the country. As the daughter of a chronic pain patient, it makes me angry. I cannot excuse very much, if any, of what the author experienced and I’m not even sure that explaining the pressures corporate pharmacists face will help bridge the gap that seems to exist for so many patients. It’s one of the many reasons why, after spending 7 years in “big box” pharmacy, I defected to a small, independent store.

    In a feeble effort to shed a bit of light from the other side of the counter, I will try to address a couple of the issues I see raised (and not just once, but time and again) –

    — If the pharmacy says they haven’t received your paperwork, they probably haven’t – it does nothing to benefit the staff at your pharmacy to be dishonest about this. If the doctor says they have faxed it, ask your pharmacy to contact your doctor to follow up, but don’t expect them to oblige if it’s been less than 24 hours since your request was made. As a professional, I like to extend that courtesy to the prescribers and I believe that giving them a full business day to respond is just good form. Also, if I call them about every single person who thinks their refill should have arrived already, they are going to be angry with me and much less likely to assist me when I DO have a situation that I need resolved quickly. If it has been at least a day, the doctor says its taken care of, and your pharmacy says it isn’t, request follow up by the pharmacy – if they refuse, FIND A NEW PHARMACY!

    — If you get a prescription every month and the pharmacy chronically runs out (not just once in awhile), talk with them about it and find out what’s going on. There are times in managing inventory that mistakes just get made. I’ve had drugs on my shelf that I haven’t used in MONTHS and then seemingly, I’ll get prescriptions from 3 patients in the same day – so the last person gets the shaft. Alternatively, I may have someone get the same drug every month, then suddenly we get a new patient on it too – and inevitably they will try to fill it on the same day when I only have enough on hand for one patient. We don’t like not having your drug in stock – it makes you mad, makes us look incompetent, and potentially loses us a sale. In my big box career, we only received C-II orders once a week so it isn’t too out of line for a patient to have been told it would be a week before it arrived – that’s just how their system worked. However, it also prevented us from partial filling C-II’s because in my state, the remainder has to be dispensed within 72 hours. Not possible when your order is a week away. In the independent where I am now, we can get an order every business day if need be, so I have more flexibility to take care of my customer. If this “in stock” issues arises time and time again and no one seems to care – OR if you request that the pharmacy call around to find the drug for you and they REFUSE to do so – FIND A NEW PHARMACY!

    — If your pharmacy EVER tells you they are too busy, dishonest, or lazy to take care of you as a customer or patient – FIND A NEW PHARMACY! If one of my technicians ever told a customer that we lie about our on-hands to potential customers, they would be reprimanded (if not fired) on the spot. If I ever hear someone tell a customer it’s “not my job”, they better be prepared to justify their existence in my pharmacy to me, because everything is their job. With that being said, I don’t think its a realistic expectation that your pharmacy call you if there’s a problem with your refill every time. We make our best effort to contact patients who live out of town or who we know have issues with transportation – but if I called every person who had a prescription that required attention, I would spend probably 3 hours of my day on the phone – and I work in a relatively “slow” store. If this seems to happen to you time and again, you can call the pharmacy before you make the trip to see if they have your prescription ready – it might mean another phone call but could help to ease your frustration in making the trip only to find out it isn’t ready. Many small, independent pharmacies may offer delivery services – this could you save you time and hassle, not to mention helping you avoid the pain that sometimes comes with driving or riding in vehicles. My pharmacy delivers locally and to the two neighboring towns (we are in a rural area) at no charge to the patient.

    — Your insurance company may tell you they will fill your prescription at 28 days, which is possible (and completely typical). However, many insurance companies also have a rolling window where they count up how early you’ve gotten your prescriptions and how many times – if you are 2 or 3 days early every month for 6 months, that (in theory) gives you 12 to 18 “extra” days of medication. At some point, your insurance company may deny you on that basis alone. In addition, many chain stores also have hard-stops programmed into their systems that will not allow a controlled medication to be filled more than 3 days early. The technicians have no discretion over this and the pharmacist may be able to over-ride it, but they are limited in how frequently they are able to do so and in most cases, they have to document that they spoke to your doctor’s office in order to enter the over-ride. However, if you feel as though you are being arbitrarily denied your medication, and its being done with a lack of respect, I would speak with the pharmacy manager about it – if things don’t improve, FIND A NEW PHARMACY!!!

    –If your pharmacist wants to speak with you about your prescription, and is doing so in a respectful and empathetic fashion, please be candid with them. Something I find just as frustrating as the way some patients are treated is the way these same people view the pharmacist – as an enemy or someone there just to “count their pills.” If I were spoken to by a patient with the hostility that I see related in some of the comments, my hackles would probably be raised and it might be more difficult for me to maintain an empathetic tone with that person. I went to school for 8 years to get the degree required to do my job – it doesn’t take that long to learn how to count pills. I do have training in disease states, drug interactions, and clinical applications of medications. If I’m taking the time to (respectfully) discuss your medication with you, I promise you I have a good reason. It could be that you’re filling your prescription early on a routine basis, which alerts me to the fact that you might be taking it differently than prescribed. Often, it’s because your doctor has told you to, but the problem is that your insurance doesn’t count “verbal instructions” when they figure up your day supply. Or it could be because you had more pain than usual and had to take a few extra – I get that it happens sometimes. But as part of my education, I have learned different medication combinations that might help. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t – but please don’t be offended if I throw out something like suggesting a long acting medication in combination with a short acting drug for breakthrough pain – many prescribers shy away from prescribing long acting narcotics even when they’re clearly indicated and it might help you. If you show me your pain pump, I will make a note of it, so I don’t make that suggestion to you again in the future. If your pharmacist doesn’t care or doesn’t take the time to talk to you about your therapy, I would seriously consider finding a new pharmacy. If at any time your pharmacist (or their staff) is disrespectful to you, FIND A NEW PHARMACY!!

    This response became significantly longer than I anticipated, and I also understand that when you are under a pain contract, finding a new pharmacy is a lot easier said than done. But at the end of the day, no patient deserves to be treated with disrespect and no pharmacy, pharmacist, or technician has the right to assume they know everything they need to know about you based on the medication you receive. It saddens me that many of my fellow pharmacists seem to have lacked training in how to communicate, or they have become so cynical and jaded that they just no longer care. I truly hope that if I ever reach that point, I’m able to recognize it and move on from the career that I love.

    Best of luck to all of you who are dealing with these issues.

  6. Pharmacist Steve at 10:20 pm

    I am not going to try and defend the attitude and actions of the Rx dept staff, but try to explain what is going on “behind the counter”.. Every major pharmacy chains TIMES every move, every keystroke… staff is expected to address every pt access point in the 15-30 second range.. be it the phone, the register, the driver thru .. doesn’t matter if there is only one Pharmacist on duty or a Pharmacists and one tech.. and fill prescriptions, give vaccinations, resolve insurance billing issues and the most important one.. DON’T MAKE ANY MISTAKES. The drug wholesalers – and there are three that control 80%-90% of the entire US market – are rationing how much/many controlled meds a pharmacy can purchased because of some obscure law that the DEA expects the wholesaler to know/figure out if a pharmacy is filling Rxs for pts that may not have a valid medical necessity… keep in fact that the wholesaler has no direct knowledge of the doctors writing Rxs and/or the pts’ medical needs receiving those Rxs from the pharmacy. All they know is that they are receiving a order for controls from a legally licensed pharmacy. So that is where you get the quote “we have to reserve our stock for our regulars”.. Then there is the admitting that a pharmacy has a particular medication in stock.. suggest you do a web search for videos for pharmacy robberies and you will see that robbers just jump over the Rx dept counter.. normally with gun in hand and demand opiates. You see, the people that sit in the executive suites of these chain drug stores believes that “fortifying” the Rx dept to prevent robberies would make the Rx dept “PT UNFRIENDLY”. Stolen medications can be replaced as can harmed/killed employees… but.. to create a visually pt unfriendly environment… just can’t be considered. You have never had such an unnerving situation until you have stared down the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun being held by someone demanding opiates… not sure if this is a addict in withdrawal and unpredictable or a diverter looking to make a quick buck selling opiates on the street and unpredictable.
    Most of these chain pharmacies… their Rx volume will increase 5%-10% annually and at the same time… staffing levels are cut 5% -10%.. and this has been going on for year on end. I often hear chronic painers stating ..”they should walk in my shoes for 24 hrs…” I suggest that you should walk in the Rx dept staff’s shoes for 24 hrs.. The Pharmacist because they are salaried professionals .. typically work 12-14 hr days… there is no chairs/stools allowed in the pharmacy.. looks unprofessional/lazy if someone is sitting down typing… no scheduled meal or rest breaks…. no food/drink allowed in the Rx dept. You ask.. why don’t quit and find better working conditions.. sounds good.. but after the CVS/Target merger and the Walgreens/Rite Aid mergers.. those two name plates will have some 30%-40% of all community pharmacy outlets.. and did I mention that we have a growing surplus of pharmacists… some 3000+ more grads than needed… many of the chains are pulling back on their 24 hr stores to 80-90 hr/wk and can expect 1000 Walgreen/Rite Aid stores to close due to the merger and maybe 800 of the 1850 Target Rx dept will close. Total pharmacy store numbers are static to declining. On a scale of 1-5 where 5 is HIGH SHORTAGE and 1 is HIGH SURPLUS.. and 3 is a equilibrium some areas of the country are in < 2 range.. the only real place that has a HIGH SHORTAGE right now is ALASKA.. IMO.. by the end of 2017 we could have 10,000 – 20,000 unemployed Pharmacists.. 10 yrs ago we had 6000 job slots with no one to fill them.. thanks to the 50% increase in pharmacy schools and the older legacy pharmacy schools increasing their enrollment/graduation…here we are today.. It is a very complex problem with way too many middlemen sticking their nose into what use to be a very simple business model.. DEA/CDC/FDA… PBM.. insurance companies… state legislatures and on and on… the community pharmacy industry that I entered as a student in 1966… is hardly recognizable today. We have went from where the largest chains had maybe a few hundred stores each to where – after the mergers – two names plates will have 22,000 – 25,000 stores between them out of a total of 50,000 – 60,000 pharmacies.

  7. Melanie chandler at 5:01 pm

    I feel the same frustration. Have been using same CVS for all my med for several years due to convenience. I have filled the same pain prescription every 30 days for at least 3 years now. Lately, I have been told that they didn’t have enough and I would have to wait for the next delivery in 2 days. Once after waiting 2 days and going back they said the wrong strength had been sent and it would be another 2 days!! With their computerized system, shouldn’t it automatically sent in the order for my pain med just as if I were getting blood pressure med every month? I have to drive 45 min every month to pick up my script and see the doctor every third time. Then there is the humiliation of random drug testing after have been seeing same doc for 5 years. I have never once “lost” a script, asked for refills early or asked for an increase in my med and yet I feel like a criminal sometimes.

  8. Amy at 2:13 pm

    I’ve found the small mom and pop pharmacies to be way better than trying big chains. They always have the quantity of meds I need on the day I need them because let’s face it, its not hard. I fill my prescription every 29 days why can’t you plan for that? The mom and pop pharmacies can but CVS and Walgreens and other big chain pharmacies refuse too and give excuses why they cant. The customer service at most of the mom and pop pharmacies I’ve used is top notch. The one I use now I’m greeted by name the second I walked in the door. They start working on my prescriptions immediately when I give them to them. I have a minimal wait time. They are always giving treats to the customers l..cookies, flowers,etc. If I can’t fill my prescription they day I bring it in for whatever reason and can’t make it back to the pharmacy to pick it up (they are a 45+ minutell drive for me) the offer to mail my meds at no cost to me). I could go on and on about the little things they do, but these little things add up. They are focused on the customer and not the all mighty dollar and that makes the difference and for that reason I will make the 45 minute drive to use them.

  9. Tracey at 12:34 pm

    Martha is correct. Walgreens (and I suspect CVS) has something called the “Good Faith Dispensing policy.” It’s actually quite disturbing to know that a pharmacist can call your doctor and ask for the following info: patient’s diagnosis, length of time patient will be taking the medication(s), what other “alternative” medications patient has taken, etc. They only do this with prescription opioids (controlled II and most likely stimulants).

    http://ftpcontent.worldnow.com/wthr/PDF/WalgreensGFDdocuments.pdf

    http://www.wthr.com/story/23469086/2013/09/18/walgreens-secret-checklist-reveals-controversial-new-policy-on-pain-pills

  10. Tonya at 12:24 pm

    it’s a shame, the big chain drugstores should be sued! They purposefully under-man every pharmacy – usually there’s only 1 pharmacist & 1 tech, sometimes 1 Pharmacist and no tech and the pharmacist has to give immunizations, handle the phone & fax machine as well as filling 500+ prescriptions with no break or lunch. And most are forced to work 12 hour shifts. This is the state of our healthcare…..

  11. Kenneth at 12:03 pm

    With the advent of the CDCs guidelines pharmacists are beginning to cross the line of medication guidance, to prescribing watchdog. Not all cases, nor, people are alike. One R.X. may work on a certain patient, for a certain disorder, where it does not work at all for someone else, with the same symptoms, same condition. I have experienced this personally. I was prescribed a certain muscle relaxer (that has a bad reputation for abuse) by my primary after failing many others. I was on it for 3 years with much success, returning to as normal as possible functioning. This included Piano and guitar playing, which was more than a hobby for me. I was subjected to pill counts, u/a, an R.X monitoring program, and not once did I fail to comply. I was staying at my dying moms house for 2 months, 20 miles from home. When my R.X. came due I called the Walgreens I had used for years and inquired as to whether they could contact a Walgreens nearer to where I was staying at to get my refill. ” No Problem Sir”, I was told. “Just bring your R.X bottle
    in and they can call us if need be”. ” EASIER SAID THAN DONE “. I telephoned the pharmacy and asked to speak with the pharmacist on duty. He was very pleasant and asked if I would mind holding while he looked up my profile. When he came back on the phone I thought I was talking to Satan himself. ” You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said. ” First, why have you been on this medicine this damn long ?” ” Second, what the hell is wrong with you to warrant the long term use of this medicine ?” In order to refill your medicine, even though you have 2 refills, I’ll have to speak with your Doctor, maybe the DEA, and find out why your on a short term R.X. , Long Term, this is unacceptable.” This is where my problem with pharmacists come in. They are really pushing their weight around lately. I never remember a time when they questioned a physicians prescribing traits so much. They seem to think they know how to treat medical conditions with R.X, meds better than a practicing Doctor. They judge customers, deny them meds for a variety of predjidicuial reasons, then try and question the physician himself. Someone will inadvertently get hurt if this continues. Things have changed a lot, but the changes in the pharmacies are inexcusable, and border on practicing medicine without a license.

  12. Ellie at 10:47 am

    I feel for all the people @ the mercy of the pharmacists. I will not go to cvs as I too have not only been shorted pills but been given the wrong doses of Coumadin as I carefully looked them up when I got home. All I got was a we are sorry bring them in & we will fix it & yet they tried to charge me another copay. My son works for a company omnicare which merged with cvs & gets a whopping 20% discount yet he doesn’t get his rx’s filled there as all the problems I have had. Now I will absolutely agree that there are some great pharmacies out there like the mom & pop ones that truly go out of their way to help you. I just wish I could get my monthly pain meds but the pain clinic I go to designates where I hav to go & these pharmacists & assistants are nightmares. Last month I had just got out of the hospital , I knew my meds were due to be picked up on the 17th, but with them they sometimes make you wait 2 xtra days but they told me when I called from the hospital that they got the rx from from pain managemant & they could be picked up. I called again the day I was being discharged to make sure they would be ready & requested the time so my son would not have to famously wait as usual. The next morning I called the pharmacy & the pharmacist said he would put them through now, as I was on the phone he said” oh wait they won’t go through, they are requesting prior authorization. I was never contacted by my insurance company about this & had the letter from last years prior authorization & it was dated for the end of march. Technically this months supply does extend into march but why was I not notified as I am a person that likes to or prevent a problem before it occurs. PI called to pain clinic & left several messages & finally got a call back @ the end of the day stating that they will work in it but it could take up to 72 hrs. I made a total of 15 calls within 2 days, & I had only 1 long acting pill left as I had to use my own while in the hospital along with my own stomach meds per the dr as they only had generic which makes me so sick. I asked the pharmacist if he could sell me 2. He said he could not as I would lose the remaining portion of my pains meds when/if approved. Well ling story short it was only one of the worst times in my life. It took 2 days to be approved & guess what no1 cared that I was in withdrawal just coming out of the hospital with a blood lot in my lung. Now I am not sure when I can get my pain meds filled next month as they were supposed to be filled on the 17th but were not filled until the 19th. As I said this pharmacy does anything but make your life easier & I really feel for you people out there dealing with these issues. If ant1 knows the answer to these questions regarding the law & refills 30 days or 32 days as I live in Pennsylvania & knowledge is power.

  13. Liz at 10:19 am

    For me the issue was “waiting periods.” I am driving restricted too, but there’s a dozen pharmacies in my area so I can go to different ones easily. The issue is that in my pain management contract I have said that I will only use one specific pharmacy and that to switch I have to get the approval of my doctor. I had been using the same pharmacy for years for all of my prescriptions, when out of nowhere they instituted a 24-hour waiting period for all opiate prescriptions. That left me without management for a full day. I stayed with the pharmacy because of my contract when, out of nowhere again, they switched to 48-hour waiting period. I asked my doc to switch and he said “sure, I don’t care.” So I switched. About 6 months later, they instituted a 48-hour waiting period. So I switched again, and have been with this pharmacy now for 2 years. They have no waiting periods at all. I moved every prescription to them because I like them, as they treat their customers as human beings and have the fastest turn-around time I have ever seen in a pharmacy, about 20 minutes for any prescription they receive. I do not understand the reason for the waiting periods. Are they trying to drive patients away, but don’t want the bad publicity of just outright telling them to find another pharmacy? Do they look at someone in a cast or fresh from surgery coming in with a hospital prescription and tell them to wait 2 days for relief? How is this in any way acceptable to them, to keep patients in pain for so long??

  14. Charles Lucas at 10:15 am

    This is all so true. I have had all I can take with this kind of treatment. Yes, some pharmacists may care but in my experience they are just as guilty as the one described. They actually act like you are a bother from them counting pills. It amazes me they have a Patient Consult area if you need to speak to the pharmacist. Once again I am treated like a intrusion. Once I had a pharmacists tell me I should on a REMs medication such as OxyContin, MSContin or some other long lasting pain medicine instead of the morphine IR I was trying to feel. In embarrassment I had to lift my shirt and show her the incision where my pain pump is. That I told her is my long lasting medicine. The IR is for breakthrough. I just give up.

  15. Kr at 9:36 am

    This was happening in florida 5 or more years ago. And is why i banned walgreens and cvs wish others would do the same. I havent stepped foot in a walgreens or cvs in 5 years and i never will again IF OTHERS WOULD DO THE SAME maybe they wouldnt continue to get aWAY w this.

  16. Sharon at 9:32 am

    Being a patient of a pain management doctor I am suppose to go to same pharmacy every month. Tell me how that is to be possible when, like Martha, they don’t have the quantity my prescription calls for? The pharmacist know we are to use same pharmacy every month so why not see who has been a customer with same prescription for same medication and put it aside. I go in on day 28 they say to early, I go on day 30 and they say they don’t have enough!!! I had a pharmacist tell me I should have 4 days left of medication. I had her get a calendar out and counted the day when I filled to day I was getting refill….it was day 29!! So then she said insurance won’t fill it for 4 days!!! How can that be when the script is for 30 days??? I called insurance and they said the pharmacy should fill on day 28!!!! What???? I’ve been told that is to early. She said no, day 28 is refill for a 30 day script. I did get my script filled that day and I did talk with the pharmacist about my diagnosis. And how one day can and does make a difference. I maybe able to get out on day 28 alot easier than day 30 or vise versa!!

  17. Martha Arntson at 9:07 am

    I am happy to hear I am not the only “victim” of the Pharmacies! CVS, Walgreens, both have “secret” policies as to Opiate prescriptions. It can be found by just Googling something such as “Pharmacies secret policies for opiate dispensing”, etc. I have literally had to drive to 5 pharmacies in the snow, last year, here in Kansas because my primary CVS said “Oh we don’t have that many”. I ask “Pharmacist, can you call the other one and see if they have it”? Pharmacist “We can’t do that”. What? You can’t or wont? Frustrated I left, drove and drove. All this time in horrible pain. I fill my prescriptions every month at 29 to 30 days as required by my Pain Management Doctor. 90 Percocet. I began to think back to when I first started in Pain Management and I was receiving 120 qty, 10/325 Percocet. I never had refills as my P.M. see’s me every 28 days. Which requires my usual office visit AND a trip to the Pharmacy. Which, has become the worst days that I dread. Never knowing whether or not they are going to “approve” dispensing it, or making me wait 31 days. They claim it’s the Insurance Company. And, upon speaking to my Insurance Company’s representative, they tell me “No, it’s not them denying it”. So, who to believe and what to do about this situation with people like us who are not druggies seeking pain meds. We are normal (in pain) people who have VALID prescriptions EVERY MONTH for what the DOCTOR orders. Never have I been so embarrassed at the CVS one day (a new Pharmacist) LOUDLY STATED IN FRONT OF ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE AROUND “MRS. _____, WE CANNOT FILL YOUR PERCOCET UNTIL 31 DAYS PERIOD.”. I contacted the Company itself, got little if any apology for their Pharmacy practices. THEN I started counting my pills I was suspicious as the bottle didn’t look full and was the same size as prior month. I was SHORTED 5 of my pills. Of course I had left the pharmacy so there is no going back and arguing with them. I contacted the Company AND my Doctor. She suggested changing Pharmacies. I did, it was worse. Walgreen’s is WAY WORSE with their secret policies. Back to CVS (same one) AGAIN I was shorted by 2. By this time I just gave up. Someone was diverting a few pills here and there and getting away with it. I finally got an answer from CVS top dog, they started an investigation. I have since noticed one person that’s been there for years, gone. So, I assume what we as patients need to do with this situation is to VOCALIZE, WRITE, ORGANIZE ourselves and stop letting Pharmacies run the roost. In your case, whatever drug you are taking is probably a Schedule III, which means can be called in or Faxed, not needing a written RX. But, even then, it’s become a huge problem for a lot of doctor’s who are not Pain Management doctor’s but G.P.s. Thanks for letting me vent my frustrations!

  18. Jean Price at 8:49 am

    Your articles points to one more layer of hassles and problems for those with chronic pain, and I think it’s nationwide unfortunately. And the pharmacies I’ve used are so very different in their response to their clients needs. One may say three hours or overnight just to fill something they have in stock even when you say it’s difficult to get back again, and waiting is impossible. Another one may take a week or more to get in a medicine they’re out of yet one you’ve filled and refilled for months from them! And I’ve never had one call in town to see if another location had it. I’ve even been told I should use another pharmacy if I wanted quicker refills…something I wouldn’t want my employees doing if I owned that company! To make this harder, most insurance companies and even some employers dictate who you can use, and this is frustrating if the only one allowed has a poor history of service. Solutions? I do think it helps if the staff know you and know your pain and health issues…and because we have to use a singular pharmacy to get our meds in pain management…we have the opportunity to build relationships and also build trust and respect for our situation. Others have commented in the past and have mentioned the shortage or the absence of the meds they need, and this makes no sense whatsoever. Except it’s in line with so many other issues in pain treatment that make no sense! Most pharmacy staff don’t even ask if you’re entirely out or seemed concerned. Searching for a better pharmacy is hard…yet there are really some who seem to do a better job than others, and it’s worth it to keep trying if you have several close. Those are the ones to stick with! And let them know our appreciation! I have found one, and yet the name of the company isn’t as important as the people who work there, because that’s the bottom line with any service. You can get bad service one day and compassionate service the next if it’s different employees. I’m fortunate that mine seems to have all great people who care…and who know I’m doing a good job dealing with chronic pain and using my meds appropriately. They even check amounts when I call for a refill to save me the trip if they’re out, and then it never more than a day to get them in. I sadly think this type of experience is rare…but I will say it’s not totally gone.

  19. Bob Schubring at 8:32 am

    Katelyn just said a mouthful. Ultmately, we patients must take our care into our own hands. Nobody else knows us as intimately, as we know ourselves from the inside. Health care needs to be understood as an assist, that performs certain tasks for us while we cannot do them for ourselves, and then steps out of our way when we’re ready to perform them again. Even the very sickest people have feelings of empathy and often want to help others, to the extent possible. The error we make, is to assume that every patient depends 100% on the help we give them, and 0% on their own efforts.

    It’s by viewing an illness as a kind of prison sentence for our metaphysical punishment, that we may fantasize the illness to go away someday.

    Drugs can be liberating, if used properly, to open up our ability to function without pain. Addiction, a disease in which a drug is taken for the purpose of intentional self-harm, needs to be understood as a treatable disease, exactly as we respond to wrist cutting, polydypsia, or major depression. We don’t outlaw kitchen knives, because a wrist cutter might use one for self-harm. We treat the wrist cutter as a patient and keep them away from sharp instruments until he or she learns to talk about their anger instead of acting it out. Neither should we outlaw pain relief.

  20. D at 3:53 am

    It’s horrifying to deal with refill issues and customer service people who are so rude that you just want to reach across the counter and choke them. Call me silly but the phrase, “NOT IN MY JOB DESCRIPTION” is used far too often in all retail venues. I had an experience at Lowes Home Improvement store once where the girl at the register was Facebooking on her cell phone and totally ignoring the customers. I think that the words customer service should be removed from the retail world. Businesses, pharmacies included have all gone to a sell sell sell attitude and hiring cheap labor to increase profit with no concern for the customer.
    You can evaluate the quality of a pharmacy by how many different faces you see working there on every visit. Stores that have huge turnovers will definitely be at the bottom of the list. The huge chain Pharmacy’s are running the little guy’s out of business and with the help of big pharma. I myself have two rules when it comes to choosing a pharmacy. 1rst, if they are in a store thats primary business is selling groceries or clothing, I won’t use them. 2nd, if the have a drive thru, I’ll definitely stay away because they are only thinking quantity and not quality. In other words, if they sell beer and cigarettes along with filling prescriptions for emphysema and alcoholism, there has to be something wrong with that.