My Story: What if Pharmacists Were in Our Shoes?

My Story: What if Pharmacists Were in Our Shoes?

Just a few short months ago I was diagnosed with vulvar cancer. I also have other conditions that I was diagnosed with many years ago, including interstitial cystitis and degenerative disc disease. I have been on a narcotic treatment for the last 12 years.

Going into the pharmacy every month is such a torturous thing. The looks that the pharmacist gives you when you handover prescriptions from your doctor for a narcotic medication is something no one should have to go through.

Chasity Levine Mitchell

Chasity Levine Mitchell

I have in the past had a pharmacist tell me, “Sorry we cannot fill this for you” while giving me that look in the eye that says, “You’re nothing but a drug addict.”

I have had several occasions where I go into a Bi-Mart pharmacy in my county and turn in my prescriptions. If there is an error on the prescription the pharmacist turns and looks at me and says, “I’m sorry we are unable to fill this. You shouldn’t be taking so many. You’re taking more than what your doctors authorizing you to.”

I’ve even had difficulty trying to get medications filled after postop surgery for vulvar cancer.

There have been several occasions where I had to look at the pharmacist and tell him, “Look you’re not my doctor. You don’t know what’s going on in my life. Not that it’s any of your business, but I have chronic interstitial cystitis, vulvar cancer, plus degenerative disc disease.”

It is so sad to see the way the pharmacists treat people. What if they were in our shoes? What if they had to go through this every month, having to feel the way that we feel when we go to turn in our prescriptions? I know that there are people out there that abuse the system, but that doesn’t mean you have to treat everybody with disrespect and put them down for having to be on a narcotic treatment plan.

I wish there was more that can be done for the people who truly need these medications. I have tried switching pharmacies and have family members pick up medications for me so that I wouldn’t have to go in and feel the way that the pharmacist can make you feel.

It makes me wonder how well the pharmacists will be treated when they’re diagnosed with a disease that they have no control over. I’m sure a pharmacist on a narcotic medication doesn’t get the looks of other people who do not have a degree to hand out medications.

Wishing all of you who have a chronic disease or illness hope, faith and prayers. And that you don’t have to go through some of the things that some of us have already endured.

12_7.jpgChasity Levine Mitchell lives in Bend, Oregon. 

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. 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.

There are 20 comments for this article
  1. BL at 2:06 pm

    Yvonne Forsman, Medical marijuana nor other typees of marijuana Do Not Cure Cancer. Please stop speading this incorrect information.

    If a pharmacist fills a rx and we are harmed by it, we want to sure the pharmacist for not doing their job. We can’t have it both ways. Corresponding Authority is Federal Law. And it is not new. This doesn’t mean that the pharmacist has any right to be rude. But, as I said earlier, not all pharmacists are good with people. In the best situation, you have a pharmacist who is well trained and does their job and who is also good with people. Personally, if I had a choice I would prefer a pharmacist who was good at their job than one who wasn’t good at their job but was good with people. Drs don’t know all their is to know about meds. Drs went to school to diagnosis and treat. Pharmacist went to school to learn about medications and how they interact with each other and how they affect people.

  2. gmj at 5:30 am

    As both a nurse and a sufferer of the chronic pain that interstitial cystitis brings. I just want to add as a medical professional of course you patients safety is of the utmost concern ,but every individual should be looked at one to one basis. You can’t through every one looking to fill a pain med frequently into pain med seeking behavior. Yes their are many. But normally using many drs. Many diagnosis ,always refilling etc. But if you have a person that has legit proven diagnosis. Is working w one or two docs and may be prescribing in manners not ” normal” to you. It’s not up to a pharmacy to question. I’m sorry mds have unconventional ways of treating ways of treating pain tailored to that persons pain. Remember pain. 5th vital sign. So don’t be so quick to judge. I have had scripts to vicodan,percocet,dilaudid,tramadol for over a year. Does this mean I’m an addict?? No it means in times of severe pain. I used meds. Pain over. Stop use. I have several painful conditions. But when pain is done. Meds put down. I am currently prescribed 2mg Valium as a muscle relaxer for insterstial cystitis. I do not like taking a benzo 3x a day. But it helps. Also a Valium vag suppository. Formulary pharmacy. My pharmaCy laughed no such thing he said. All pharmacists dont know all forms of pain management. Therefore. When someone is legit should do there job and wish their client well and reserve judgement.

  3. Yvonne Forsman at 7:56 pm

    Sorry to hear about your pharmacy experiences. Also sorry to hear about your health status. If you haven’t heard, medical marijuana heals cancer and IC but you have to live in one of the 20 states which have legalized it to gain access to it. Good luck!

  4. Chasity at 12:33 pm

    Judgment says a lot. I have been a caregiver for 12 years and not once did I find it was the pharmacist business to know everything about you before they would fill medication. That’s why they don’t fill out a prescription with pen and paper. They are not a family doctor. I know what pharmacist have to go through as well. But your not a doctor just saying.

  5. Amy at 3:32 am

    As a pharmacist, I am sorry you have endured judgment in trying to manage your pain. Since you would like me to walk in your shoes, I would ask you to walk in mine. My degree is not to hand out medication. I am responsible for reviewing your medications, doses, possible interactions, and communicating with your physicians office if necessary.

    When I tell a patient they are taking to much pain medicine, it isn’t in judgment, it is out of concern for their well-being. Depending on the drug, it could cause central nervous system depression, liver damage, or even death. If you routinely need to take your meds differently than prescribed, it is crucial to talk to your dr about it and let them know. There may be a different or more effective regimen.

    So many perceived drug seekers aren’t seeking for abuse but because of uncontrolled pain. It is such a difficult and sensitive topic for many reasons. I try to remind my techs of this too when I hear them passing judgment on patients. I absolutely agree with Community PharmD too – find a pharmacy and pharmacist you trust and build that relationship. It is a lot easier to help my patients that I know than it is to help the out of state, never seen before patient who has a suspicious Rx. In the end, I have to exercise my professional judgment on every narcotic I dispense. It is my license and livelihood on the line – and it could be the life of the patient if I act irresponsibly.

    None of this justifies mistreatment of any patient regardless of the type of drug they are getting. And if your pharmacy or pharmacist treat you with anything less than respect, fire them and move on. Best of luck in getting a good pain management regimen in place and finding a good pharmacy.

  6. Bill at 10:15 am

    That really is pathetic what your bf had to go through, and such degradation on top of it. It makes those with chronic pain feel as though we are addicts in desperate need of a fix! I feel alot of blame goes to the DEA or whomever it is that is trying to envolke the fear of God into the doctors and patients! Sadly this is all because of a small minority of idiots who get their jollies out of getting high with pain meds…where do they get their money from, and is that all they do all day?…while those like us with real chronic pain diseases must suffer terribly. What’s wrong with this picture!

  7. KC at 1:20 pm

    I totally agree with Trudy. Chronic pain patients get flagged for visiting multiple dr’s and pharmacies until they find the “right one”. There are not enough pain mgmt dr’s practicing today, and those that do may not prescribe narcotics, may not accept our insurance, and/or be booked for 2 to 3 months before there’s an opening. My bf couldn’t get into pain mgmt for several months. He is in chronic pain today 24/7..he needs opioids today, not 3 months from now. His PCP won’t write him pain scripts. He asked his PCP “well what do I do from now until I see a pain mgmt doc?” His PCP suggested he go to urgent care or er. Well guess what? urgent cares and er’s only treat acute pain, not chronic pain. so bf has been around to many er’s & urgent cares until he finds a dr who will at least give him a 2 to 3 day supply of pain meds. There is no consistency tho. 1 doc at er may help him, but the next doc at that same er won’t. So, docs see multiple scripts written by different docs for 2 to 3 days supply & freak out. Why, they ask, are u visiting all these docs & places? We don’t say it, but in our minds we are thinking “because of assholes like you who don’t even bother to look at the documented case evidence or even know what CRPS is, & have formed an opinion before even walking into the room!!!” How can he go to just 1 doc right now? It’s a toss up who’s working at the er. He can never see the same doc twice. He explains how he has an appt a month from now w/pain mgmt, but the doc doesnt even listen, doesn’t want to hear it. Docs and pharmacists are more concerned about their license than a patient’s welfare. The system sucks! Chronic pain patients are suffering physically and emotionally. The treatment received from most dr’s is inhumane and unethical.

  8. denise at 8:38 pm

    I think a pharmasist has no right to go over a doctor!…Our doctor would not prescribe us these meds without a reason. Its bad enuff whe have crazy chronic miserable pain and we should not have to deal with a pissy pharmasist…ugh

  9. Brenda Alice at 5:20 pm

    Debbie, I did well on the patches for 8 years until the doctor refused to go over the 150mg dose every 72 hours. The only problem I had was with heat and with getting the adhesive off.

  10. Brenda Alice at 5:15 pm

    I have been the victim after my pharmacy of 20 years decided not to fill my prescription and lied saying that they could not order it. CVS in Smyrna Tennessee btw. I went to 6 pharmacies before going back to the doctor who called walgreens near his office and drew me a map. The pharmacist said we don’t have this. Funny that you did 15 minutes ago when the doctor called. It was filled. The embarrassment, the discrimination, the painful hours in the car, problems with finding a driver, tears of frustration and so called professional employees lying for what reason? Over 14 capsules that I was to try. Thanks to pharmacist Steve for his links that I have used and Thanks for sharing with us.

  11. Community PharmD at 10:00 am

    I’m sorry you’ve had that problem Chastity. My mother-in-law has severe chronic pain and is on a lot of pain medicine so I’ve had a lot of sympathy for patients that have difficulty acquiring appropriate control medications. Fortunately she has a regular pharmacy she uses that never has to question her scripts since they know her. As a practicing pharmacist, I also understand what the pharmacists are thinking. They’re afraid of losing their license, becoming a target for pill seekers as an easy pharmacist who doesn’t refuse questionable scripts, losing their job, being fined by the DEA, and the greatest fear of all – filling an inappropriate or illegal script that ends up causing a patient to overdose or be hospitalized (narcotics are very well controlled for a reason).

    “Look you’re not my doctor. You don’t know what’s going on in my life. Not that it’s any of your business, but I have chronic interstitial cystitis, vulvar cancer, plus degenerative disc disease.”

    This attitude is what makes it difficult for pharmacists to decide whether or not dispensing a control medication is appropriate. They don’t know your situation because you haven’t shared it so they err on the side of caution that protects what they do know for sure (their job). The pharmacist is a part of your healthcare team and it is their business to know so that they can justify the ordering and dispensing of high amounts of narcotics (it’s all highly regulated by the DEA), as well as to be able to consult with the physician if they have any questions about unusual doses or if all the prescribers involved in your care are aware of any necessary dosing adjustments based on drug interactions. Not all patients are great at informing all their prescribers about ALL their prescriptions so that they can select and adjust doses appropriately. (I’ve had clinics call me for dosing advice if they’re inexperienced with dosing for a certain population or drug interaction, so it’s good for the pharmacist to know what’s going on in patients they fill for.)

    I have had patients that I’ve turned down and asked them to seek out a pharmacist that knows their primary care physician because it was suspected (by a physician at a clinic they visited) that they were illegally reselling medications. This patient would wait for a relief pharmacist to come in because she knew that relief pharmacists were more relaxed and unfamiliar with the situation and would fill her numerous controlled substances. Fortunately, the regular staff informed me and I kindly explained the situation to her and why I felt uncomfortable with fill such a dangerous combination of controlled substances for her. I felt bad for saying no because a part of me wanted to believe her otherwise hard to believe story of every single illness she claimed to have to explain why she needed large quantities of numerous benzodiazepines and opioid products (and basically had the “holy trinity” of prescription drug abuse on her profile), but I also wanted her to get a regular pharmacist from her area that knew all her prescribers and could regularly make sure all the prescriptions were legal and safe.

    My advice to anyone who gets a high amount of pain medications filled is to have a regular pharmacy and a pharmacist that you know well. Establish a relationship with your pharmacist the way you do with your other healthcare providers. You shouldn’t go to multiple physicians to get your pain medicines, why should you go to multiple pharmacies? I’ve fortunately developed some friendships with regular patients at my new pharmacy and have gone out of my way to help them with their care when I can. We also hold the quantity of narcotics for regular customers that we know NEED them on a regular schedule and if we’re out of stock, we call other pharmacies around and inform those pharmacists that this is a regular patient who always needs these filled so that there are no questions about the oddly high or frequent dosing.

  12. Wendi at 1:51 pm

    i am VERY LUCKY! I have a WONDERFUL PHARMICIST! I’ve never had any problems with them… However, my problems are with my Pain Management Doctor!! Having MULTIPLE HEALTH ISSUES and for YEARS was on some pretty high doses of STRONG narcotic pain meds, my “Pain Mgmt Clinic” (basically the FNP) refuses to continue giving me what I was previously prescribed for YEARS! I hardly EVER see my Doctor unless it is for an injecrion in my back and the NFP (Nurse Practitioner) will NOT give me enough medication to ease my pain! She gives me just enough to keep me from having withdrawal symptoms (which is somerimes not even enough for that) but not enough to help my pain! I play by the RULES! I do NOT over medicate nor do I even ask for more (or to change me to a different medication) and if I question her, ahe refuses to even get the doctor in the room to discuss it! I don’t want to change doctors or clinics again and take the chance of being called a “Doctor Shopper” but I have been in the same medications for close to 12 years now! I am NOT an ADDICT but I have built up a tolerence to my meds and am at a loss of what to do to get SOME KIND of relief!
    I did not want to be in pain every single day & would never wish this in ANYONE! There is a HUGE difference in being ADDICTED and having a DEPENDENCE to these drugs! I have been to 3 (THREE) Specialty Psych doctors who have ALL stated that I have NO ADDICTIVE PERSONALITY traits and that I would be on NARCOTIC pain meds for the rest of my life! They have sent letters to my pain mgmt clinic but they still REFUSE to change my medications and have even lowered my dosage to the least amount without throwing me into withdrawals… I am at a loss in what to do next! We can put our animals down “humanely” but Chronic Pain Patients are left to endure severe pain daily… It makea no sense to me! If anyone has any reccomendations, please feel free to PM ME because I don’t know how much longer I can take this pain… Our animals get better treatment than Chronic Pain Patients!!

  13. Kim Miller at 12:49 pm

    There is absolutely NO DIFFERENCE between the need to function on one type of medication versus another type. If you need Metformin today, you will likely need it have it increased or additional medication added for you Diabetes as the disease worsens and NOBODY will say, “another rationalization by users to continue to use”. Nobody with chronic intractable pain will tell you they asked for the disease or diseases and conditions they SUFFER from, no more than the diabetic or heart patient asked for their lot in life, but there it is all the same.

    The only difference is that SOME people have chosen to abuse the drugs needed by chronic pain sufferers, chosen to overdose on them, and chosen to cause tremendous problems for the patients who actually NEED them to have any type of quality of life. As a result of the unfortunate actions of these sick, addicted individuals, the entire community of chronic pain patients have become a community that’s assumed to be guilty before being accused of ANY wrong doing.

    This is where the true criminal action lies. Letting people, who never asked to be in chronic pain, suffer relentlessly due to the actions of those who WILL find another way to “get their buzz” and those of us in pain will NOT find another way to alleviate out suffering because we are following the rules.

    In the chronic pain community, when you follow the rules, you suffer. You suffer physically, emotionally, and financially due to increased number of doctor visits, increased number of labs (drug screening) and the number of trips to the pharmacy as surely the number of medications you are allowed are cut and with less refills possible due to changing laws, you are at the doctor’s office constantly getting a piece of paper with a written RX as this is necessary now.

    Having never broken the laws of the pain medication standards, it seems, most definitely that we, the chronic pain community, have been singled out to suffer the burden the DEA and local police could not handle.

    It IS UNFAIR to pick on the weakest and sickest in our society and is certainly an abuse of the Americans for Disabilities Act as we are called upon to WORK very hard to receive any type of minimal relief for our situations. Makes being a diabetic seem much less daunting. Nobody looks twice at them as they get more and more of their medication, now do they?

    Indiana-Based US Pain Foundation Ambassador

  14. Trudy at 8:53 pm

    Sorry B.L., but then if your advice were followed, we would be labeled doctor shopping, or pharmacy shopping, or worse, BOTH!!! Obviously, you have had the luck of not “playing this game”, because it is not a fun game nor helpful for any pain patient’s self esteem. Too bad the obvious doesn’t work.

  15. Bridge for Pelvic Pain at 8:26 pm

    Chastity- First, thank you for speaking out about your condition and experiences as a chronic pain patient. You are doing a huge service to countless people by voicing your experience. All too often, men and women suffering from pelvic pain are silenced by the stigma you cited in your article. As a community we need to continue supporting one another and stick up for patients’ rights.
    For readers- for more resources and support please visit: http://www.bridgeforpelvicpain.org

  16. Angela at 3:49 pm

    I just had such an experience after leaving the ER with a kidney stone. The pharmacist at the Brookshires on Bert Kouns in Shreveport, LA called the ER doctor and told him I’d recently had a precriscription for the same pain medication filled at another pharmacy. The doctor then reduced my rx from 20 5mg Norco to 12 5 MG Norco. Legally the pharmacist has these rights.

    However she never told me that she contacted the doctor or changed my prescription. She had an ethical and moral responsibility to inform me of this change. Both her supervisor and her supervisor’s supervisor both agreed with me that her extreme lack of communication was not only wrong but against company policy.

    I have recently been diagnosed with IC and due to other health issues I’m limited to what medications I can take to help it. This means I’ve been using pain medication prescribed by my doctor until I can get into see a pain management doctor.

    ***, the pharmacist, had no right to deceive me. She knew nothing about me. Also the “funny” thing is that the other pharmacy I had used was another Brookshires down the road. I don’t see how that looks sneaky knowing they are all connected. I was humiliated and infuriated that one person was able to make a judgement call about me because of one piece of paper and a database with just general facts.

    Now I am not even sure if I can use the same ER without being treated as a druggie. If someone has true medical issues then a pharmacist should not be able to make them feel worse than they already do. I won’t return to that pharmacy and plan to share this so no one elseems will use them and bwe put through what I was put through.

    I know the good pay for the bad, but there must be some way that those of us with true medical problems can find a way to be treated with dignity that we deserve. We have enough to deal with in our lives than some judgemental pharmacist making us feel less about ourselves.

  17. Bill at 9:30 am

    I’ve been on the narcotic medications for years now with fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, cervical degenerative disc disease with bone spurs, kidney disease and a few others (lucky me?). I have been going to the same CVS pharmacy for years now without a problem. I wonder if it’s the way we present ourselves meaning taking a more positive, aggressive (in a good way) approach with our stance and our speaking voice when talking to the pharmacist. I am always very nice, make a joke over these awful meds (I hate them with a passion along with my health), yet when I speak, they know that I am very serious and will not accept any questions as to why I am on these drugs. That I will not allow! I also wonder if the gender makes a difference? To see me, a male, 6’2″, fairly good posture considering, nice clothing, good stance, then to see a female, similar to the way I present myself, would the pharmacist treat me better because I’m a man? I hope not, but I wonder sometimes if this is the case. Sorry for the way this sounds, I’m under a lot of pain from the fibro, and the fibro fog is really having a hayday with me today!

  18. denise at 11:47 pm

    so far i have not had to face a pharmacist to has been rude or judgemental. Right now i Wheactually have one that knows my name and is friendly beyond belief. He has previously followed my son who place baseball for the county and through the school system and the first time i ued him he asked me if i was Eli’s (my son) mom and I said yes….since then he actually has giving me pills when i run out and the phramacy will be close in sat and sun, and there are things you can get without a perscription just by signing a paper, so I would. . If I ever has scripts that were strong he would ask me if I understood how strong these were. I told him yes.. never been a problem.

  19. BL at 5:08 pm

    Even though there are many pharmacists like those mentioned above, they aren’t all like that. Try different pharmacys until you find a pharmacist who doesn’t treat you like this. There have been times that I found a good pharmacist at a drug store chain and they would be transferred to another store. And I would follow them to that store.

    Not all pharmacists, drs, or other professionals are people oriented. Don’t settle for what you can get. Put the time and effort into finding someone who fits your needs.

  20. Debbie at 4:22 pm

    I have rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, rods and screws in my low back and plates and screws in my neck. I have been put on fentanyl patches and have to get them monthly through a local pharmacy. Every time I take them in the pharmacy tech makes the statement that she wishes the doctor would not prescribe these or these are deadly, why does your doctor have you on these. It’s humiliating and it scares me. I know they are bad. I have asked the doctor to take me off of them and put me on something else but he won’t. Why do the pharmacist and techs think they are smarter than doctors and make us feels worse than we already feel. I feel bad for anyone that HAS to take these types of medications. There should be laws about the way we are treated when getting meds filled. I hate the feelings I get when I go in and just cringe when I have to get anything filled anymore. I do not wish my pain on anyone but sometimes I wish they could feel what we go through for just a day so maybe the looks and comments they make would stop.