My Story: Walgreens is Ruining My Life

My Story: Walgreens is Ruining My Life

I have been a pain patient for over 25 years.  The last 13 of those have been with the same doctor treating my pain.

My pain is chronic, stemming from three back operations on my lower back, from when I injured my lumbar discs.  I have developed degenerative spondylolthesis in three lumbar discs as well.

The doctor had me on 60 mg of methadone a day.  I started out on 30 mg 17 years ago, so I don’t think that was too bad.  A few months ago, my doctor told me he was reducing all of his patients’ methadone prescriptions, and the most he could give me was 40 mg per day.  He wrote me a prescription for MS Contin to make up the difference.

1024px-WalgreensonPalmThe very first time I presented the new dosages and prescription to the same pharmacy that had been filling my prescriptions for the last 13 years, the snotty little pharmacist informed me that they would no longer fill my prescriptions.  I asked why and she said that it was Walgreens’ policy to NOT tell patients why they are being refused service.

I was humiliated and embarrassed. I tried to go all over town, to every pharmacy. Most of them wouldn’t consider filling an out-of-county prescription. I found one guy, and he charges FIVE TIMES the amount that I was paying. I went from paying $135 for the office visit and prescriptions to now over $400 for the exact same meds and service.

My doc told me the reason he was reducing everyone’s methadone was because the DEA in Florida said that it had to be so.  I called the DEA and asked them, and they flatly denied any such regulation.  They admitted to revoking the license of the Walgreens’ distribution center, which affects the entire east coast of the U.S.  But they said that Walgreens was still able to get the meds from Ohio or a couple of other places.

So the company flatly lied to me, made me feel it was my fault or my doctor’s fault.  Pharmacy blames doctor, doc blames DEA and pharmacy, DEA blames doc and pharmacy.  Pain patients will end up dying over this.  Suicide, overdose from street drugs, accidents.

I am feeling very used.  My finances can’t handle the increase and for me, no meds = no work. This means that I am going to be hurting and broke.  Now I have to tell my wife that we are going to have move into a cheaper place, and I’ll have to go on disability.

I have two kids, and my invalid mother living with me. I hate my life.  I hate the people who are doing this to me. Something has to give.

I am going to try taper down with my last prescription. But I don’t know if I can work anymore.  This has caused a downward spiral in my life, and I am out of options.

My family needs my income.  I need the meds to have an income. And I can no longer afford the meds.

 

John McCampbell lives in Jensen Beach, Florida.

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

Send them to editor@nationalpainreport.com

The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that!  It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.

Authored by: John McCampbell

There are 24 comments for this article
  1. Mike Fogarty at 6:36 am

    Hey John,
    I’m on the edge of not being able to work any more also and I’m scared. A new doctor took over the clinic after my old doctor had to retire and he has reduced my medications drastically. He is trying to get the dosages in line with some sort of guidelines, and I can’t find them anywhere. I find nothing in the law, Florida or Federal, that specifies appropriate dosages. How can we oppose this if we can’t find where it is coming from? I had a very good quality of life for seven years. I could do, with caution, just about anything I wanted. I could be a father to my children and a husband to my wife and now I am a cripple.

  2. bobby at 1:01 am

    you HAVE to use a little “mom n pop” pharmacy…chain pharmacys #1 have wayy to many pharmacists that simply are not on the same page where at a mom n pop pharm theres maybe one or two.they get to know you,know what you need each month,and you build a relationship with them.Every month 2 days before my fill date i call my neighborhood pharm and ask will all my medication be there on that day.they say,yep! its here now…

    i will NEVER use a chain pharm,id rather wait.Theyre impersonal and dont have a clue as to what they are doing.

  3. Dan Pilkington at 10:00 am

    My wife was prescibed MS Contin 100s once upon a time. The local drug stores all wanted to fill the script with generics. My wife wanted the brand name because it was “much better”.

    One pharmacist – at a small, locally owned business – said he’d have to order 100 pills, and our script was for 90. He would be left with 10 very expensive pills he wouldn’t be able to get rid of.

    So I tried some big box stores (our regular pharmacy, Rite-Aid, had said their distributor didn’t carry the brand name). None of the big name stores carried brand name MS Contin.

    So I asked a pharmacist friend what the problem was. He said the big box stores don’t want it on their shelves because of its attractiveness to drug thieves.

    Called Rite-Aid’s corporate office and voila! the brand name suddenly became available!

  4. Carolyn at 2:59 am

    I would add to the changes that need to be demanded by us, the consumers who experience the pain! are that the medical schools have a comprehensive pain management education section to their educating of all doctors, the nursing schools do the same, likewise for dental schools. We need to demand answers from those who deem to “know” what we need … what education do you have in pain management? if you do have it, how many hours did you study and where did you study? We cannot allow our suffering to quietly lead us to our grave! Get up out of your bed, crawl out of your bed … tape your story, get someone to tape it for you … we cannot allow our pain to numb us and suffer silently any longer.

  5. Carolyn at 2:42 am

    I am in Canada therefore we do not have Walgreens. We do however, have several chain drugstores (Shoppers Drug Mart, London Drugs, Rexall and others, in addition to the regular box stores ie WalMart, Costco, Sam’s Club and others. I have never been given a rough time of it at any of them. It wasn’t until I started dealing with my local drugstore, one of a franchise called Pharmasave. I’ve never had issues with them either .. until now and only with this franchise.
    It also wasn’t until I had to request an early release for my medications, which at this time of year, is “normal” for me, is fully documented and recorded as being historical and necessary. It seems winter is the worst time of year for me, where late spring, summer and early fall allow me to take less medication and I am often well into a week extra as I don’t require as much. (Naturally this is not spoken of).
    Between my doctor being difficult to deal with in that he is so busy that he doesn’t hear or listen properly, his staff is irresponsible in messaging and passing on messages correctly …. add then to what I am now experiencing at this drugstore. The usual “side eye”, rude tones of voices, speaking to me as if I am a child or worse, an addict. None of them have taken the time to get to know me or my life in pain … The co-owner / pharmacist clearly has tagged my name in the system, to where ALL of the pharmacists there feel they can speak to me disrespectfully and unprofessionally. I will be addressing my issues to the co-owner/pharmacist face to face tomorrow and in no uncertain terms. And my doctor who has left me yet again in an embarrassing situation.
    I am frankly fed up with understanding their side of this issue. I am done with hearing about their problems. They now need to hear mine.
    In the past two to three years, at least here in Canada, I have had the sense that the powers that be, simply want us dead. We are inconvenient, we are just complaining, we should just “buck up and take an aspirin” etc.
    Until we start fighting back, loudly and clearly, the media will continue to get away with distorting the facts, the medical system will continue to get away with distorting the facts, and the pharma co. will continue to get away with their illegal activities. Doctors need to be called out on their fear and their unethical behaviors, not necessarily those who should have their licences revoked for irresponsible and negligent prescription writing but also the doctors who abandon their patients, who refuse to appropriately care and manage their patients pain adequately, and who are gutless in standing up for their patients’ rights.

  6. Deanna Burke at 3:53 pm

    All I can say is I’ve had the same problem here in Boston, Massachusetts with my pain medication and Walgreens. I switched to Rite -Aid with no problem after Walgreens insisted they needed to know “why” I was on the medication I was on. I did not think it was any of their business and I said so. After that I was treated very rudely and they never had the dosage my doctor prescribed. I have no idea what is going on, but something clearly was/is. Too bad because I was a loyal customer for years.

  7. charlene Butolph at 12:12 pm

    About 8 years ago I had all my scripts at Walgreens until one day they changed my pain patch from gel to mylar,even though I had them several times write that the mylar did not work well for me,I had to argue with the person behind the counter. She kept saying they were the same thing,even though I had talked to my pain Dr. about this problem(he was the one that told me sometimes they do not work for everyone)This clerk got snotty with me and I was told once I picked it up I had to keep it.I was furious after having to go 2 months on a patch that did not work for me,so I moved everything back to CVS and have not had any issues.

  8. John McCampbell at 11:06 am

    I truly appreciate all of the support and responses, some of them quite long, and I thank you for the time you spent on the issue. I am using a local compounding pharmacy, I won’t mention the name, and they actually require that for every controlled prescription there must be a non-controlled prescription. This keeps his pain medication ratio lower, to keep the DEA happy. I have to take potassium and magnesium daily, so my doc agreed to write the supplements out in prescription form, to meet this requirement. They add around thirty bucks to the total. My new pharmacist told me that Walgreen’s buys millions of doses per month, they can offer a better price. He has to buy one or two bottles of 500, and the distributor he was using raised the prices recently as well. I used to pay 35 bucks for 180 methadone per month, now I pay 129 bucks for 120. From $0.19 per pill to $0.93 per pill. My MSContin went from 79.00 for 30, $2.63 each, to 127.00 for 30, up to $4.23 each. As much as I hate Walgreen’s, I would like to get the prices they offer, and that I paid for ten years. Bastards!

  9. pharmaciststeve at 5:26 pm

    @steve… the overwhelming of what you have stated is correct.. however.. no prescriber can have a “lily white” practice.. a couple of rotten apples may slip by.. No only do the DEA pay other medical professionals to say that the prescriber does not conform to current standard of practice… they also will “turn” the few “rotten apples” in the practice.. giving them a “get out of jail card free” to testify that the prescriber was just “writing Rxs for anything they wanted”.

    When the DEA “busts” a prescriber’s practice.. by law.. every asset that the prescriber has.. is determined to be “ill gotten gain” from selling drugs.. and is seized by the DEA.. and the DEA gets to keep/sell everything to help provide additional funding to fight the war… So the prescriber… has no practice… has no assets.. and the DEA tells the prescriber.. if you are not happy .. sue us.. of course you have no assets and they get a public defender to defend them in court.

    To be frank.. few in justice, few bureaucrats, few in healthcare give a crap if you get your meds.. And if a chronic pain pt takes their meds to commit suicide.. because they won’t investigate it as a suicide.. but as a just a “drug overdose” or “accidental drug overdose”… because people committing suicide because of their under/untreated pain.. would not service the war on drugs “industry” very well…

  10. SANDRA WEIDNER at 11:49 pm

    I am a pain patient in Melbourne FL. I am on pain meds for my severe back and leg pain. I have been on pain meds for the last 15 years. I have no problem getting them filled at my local Walgreen’s. I do know that I have to drop script off and come back later as there is a form the pharmacist has to fill out. Also, some of the narcotics, they need to talk to the Dr who wrote the script to verify that they indeed write it. I make sure I get into the Dr a week before I am due for a refill, so that I can go in 4 days earlier to get it filled to allow the pharmacist to do their thing. If having trouble affording your meds, check for the original brand name manufacturer and check see if they have a patient assistant program where the meds will cost you very little or are free.

  11. Steve at 11:45 pm

    This is all part of the DEA’s war on doctors and war on patients. Drug dealers aren’t easy to go after and they fight back. Doctors have plenty of non-hidden resources and admit they dispensed the meds. The DEA is made up of a bunch of cops who are too ignorant to acknowledge their own medical ignorance who can’t tell the difference between medical practice (which they are expressly forbidden from governing under the constitution- legitimate medical practice is exclusively governed by the states) and pill mills. Unfortunately, the DEA is left to determine what is legitimate medical practice with no medical training and AUSA (Assistant US Attorneys) have been know to later bribe “medical experts” up to $40,000 to say that the accused doctors are out of bounds.

    Even if a doctor wins their case, they end up hundreds of thousands of dollars (easily $750,000) in the hole with NO MEANS TO REPAY THAT DEBT because they lose their medical licenses automatically.

    Our entire legal system is BROKEN! The accused are GUILTY UNLESS PROVEN INNOCENT, instead of INNOCENT UNTIL & UNLESS PROVEN GUILTY. That’s a big problem, but it can be fixed in pieces. For example, doctors should be judged by THEIR PEERS, OTHER DOCTORS, not cops. The DEA should have NO POWER over medical practice and allegations of overprescribing should be handled by state boards with criminal charges being decided by state DAs and this should be ONLY AFTER there medical board determined that their actions were outside of the scope of medical practice.

    Doctors must stand up against the DEA’s tyranny and we must stand up for our doctors. Enough of the DEA’s games, enough of the scapegoats, enough of the lies from doctors, from pharmacists, from drug companies, and ENOUGH of the DEA’s lies.

    Knowledge is POWER and the DEA knows that and that is why they spread their propaganda. We must counter their lies with smart, level headed rebuttals. Statistics are powerful and we must remember to use specific statistics and clinical trial results because, while our individual stories are powerful, large trials sway opinion faster. Everyone who is comfortable doing so should call their local news stations and encourage them to do stories about the suffering of CP/IP (chronic pain/intractable pain) patients as a whole AND about our individual struggles. We must rebut the DEA’s “Opioid Epidemic” and reminds the nation, and the world, that the true epidemic is underprescribing and undertreatment. The ‘Epidemic of Undertreatment’ is a threat to our national and economic security.

    Our comments here are a start, but I encourage all of you to branch out beyond the CP/IP world. Post this and every other article and opinion publicly on your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and every other site. Branch out beyond the internet (if you are able). Write to your elected officials, medical boards, medical societies, and anyone else who might listen.

    Above all else, STOP BITING YOUR TONGUE WHEN YOU’RE LIED TO!!! When your doctor says that there is a “new law” causing him/her to reduce your meds, instead of admitting his/her cowardice, POLITELY inform him/her that you mean no disrespect and are not arguing with his/her decision, but there are no new laws governing prescriptions, however you understand that the DEA has been overly aggressive. You stop the lies, build a report (silent ‘T’), and it can cause your doctor to consider more adequate prescribing because you can build trust through honesty.

    Although I worded this all as “directions”, I mean it all as suggestions and I hope that you all can understand my passion for this subject and not holds my wording against me.

    Steve

    If anyone knows of any articles or studies that I can add to http://bit.ly/IPkills in order to represent what chronic pain is really like for patients, physicians, pharmacists, nurses, caregivers, physician extenders, family members, etcetera, please email a link to me. I’m also working on a less personal site, essentially an encyclopedia of chronic/intractable pain. Any articles for that site are also welcome.
    IntractablePainKills at gmail.com

  12. Donna Ratliff at 3:17 pm

    I don’t think there is one pain patient in Florida that hasn’t had problems with pain care since 2011. Whether being refused by a pharmacy or a doctor that has cut their doses so severely they can’t function anymore.
    I honestly thought that was why opioids were given to people suffering with pain, so they could function in life as much as possible but that isn’t the case anymore. I have heard from many patients that have had to STOP working and go on disability. Families suffer from this, not just the patient. SSDI doesn’t pay nearly as much as a good job with benefits, plus this will run the national debt sky high and that is already out of control.

    I really wish that someone would help get the problems noticed by our government on how every pain patient in FL is having severe trouble just having pain relief. This is spreading to many other states too.

    I suppose it will take something drastic to happen or several years before they hear how many people suffer daily. The Institute of Medicine has announced there are 100 million people that suffer with pain daily, when will the USA realize this? It’s an inhumane situation happening down here with so many disabled and retired folks. Don’t move to FL if you have pain!

    I hope everyone living in Florida votes this next Governor election to help get rid of Rick Scott and Pam Bondi. We need state officials that will listen to the people and not decide what we need for us.
    Keep fighting for your rights for pain care and don’t give UP! If we give up? We ALL lose and the suffering will never end. Go visit ALL your local reps and tell them what your life is like. They need hear from you face to face. Emails just get deleted.

  13. Steve Ariens at 1:22 pm

    @Kim… this issue of the discount card may be that I have heard that some of the generic opiates have had dramatic price increases and these cards are not reimbursing based on the current cost of the meds.. I have read other Pharmacist posting that some there is $100 + below their costs of acquiring the med. The other issue may be the higher cost of administrating Rxs for C-II’s .. and all the paperwork associated with fill a C-II. The issue of availability is a mixture of DEA and wholesalers rationing opiates.

  14. Kim p at 9:43 am

    I can’t find any chain that will fill my meds. Same dose for 10 years. I use a discount card but nobody will take it on narcotics. My meds are 700.00 a month. I don’t understand why the true chronic pain patients can’t get help. We are in the middle and are the ones being hurt. I’m not a criminal and hate being treated like one

  15. GypsyBlu at 6:12 pm

    I am so sorry. I live in New Mexico and the Walgreens I’ve gone to for 9 years did the same thing to me too ! I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I had never had a problem getting my pain medication from them. They started telling me ” I’m sorry but we don’t have any of this “. I said since when? I was here last month ? The snotty man I dealt with said, ” the place where we get our medications from is not filling our entire order. Sorry, and I went everywhere and finally I got it filled at walmart . I try not to go to walmart because they do not have a drive threw. I am totally disabled and unable to walk with out the use of a walker. I have nerve damage in my legs that has atrophied all my muscles from the hips down. I need a electric wheel chair. But I just don’t have enough money.

    I kept going back to Walgreens several more times the next few months and again I was treated like some drug addicted. I was mortified!!

    I called CVS and explained my situation with Walgreens and asked if they had my medications I take every day. I needed a pharmacy that understood I come every month. They were so kind to me I transferred ally meds from Walgreens to CVS and I’m happy to say I haven’t had another problem since. I will never go to Walgreens again !!

  16. Steve Ariens at 5:47 pm

    @Charolette don’t isolate WAGS… the typical Pharmacist works 12-14 hr days..any may have to drive 1-2 hrs each way to work.. because the chains keep a lot of Pharmacists as “floaters”… they bounce from store to store… Try working 12-14 hrs on your feet – no breaks – 2-4 hr drive time.. and having to do it several days in a row…no scheduled meals/restroom breaks and most chains won’t even let there be a stool/chair in the Rx dept. I have been told that as of Jan 1.. for the third year in a row CVS has cut tech staff hrs by 10%.. and it isn’t because their Rx business is dropping off.. they want to show a 10% + increase in profits to the stock market. Most chains.. have icons on the computer screen to show how far you are behind.. and if you get too far behind the COMPUTER WRITES YOU UP .. They are expected to answer the phone.. address the register and drive thru window measured is SECONDS … normally < 15 seconds.
    If the Pharmacist complains.. they are told.. ".. if you can't do the job.. we will find someone else who will try to do it …" Pts need to complain to the various pharmacy boards.. Their primary charge is to protect the public's health and safety !

  17. LarryK at 4:50 pm

    I’m lucky that I can get all of my meds through the local base pharmacy. Walgreens doesn’t take Tricare anymore as well. I can’t imagine cutting down on meds. I’ve missed doses before, and the resulting pain increase was not fun. As it is, what I’m on doesn’t bring me down to less then 5 on the pain scale.

    I had a neighbor, years ago, who had pain issues as well. He went to 2 different ERs, over the course of 3 months, for 3 separate pain instances. The doctor at one of the ERs ended up writing in his records that he had gone to several ERs around the state, some of which the times made it impossible for the visits to make sense, and he subsequently had issues getting any pain medication.

    What doesn’t make sense to me, is that there have been a few studies pop up that say there is only a small minority of the population abusing pain medication. Furthermore, it isn’t that difficult to evaluate the history of a patient and tell they are legitimately in pain. Legitimate pain patients shouldn’t have to suffer from DEA oversight. It’s about time something be done about this issue. However, I don’t see that happening until a drastic (and likely tragic) turn of events in the chronic pain community happens.

  18. Scott m Lynch at 3:51 pm

    John I live in Rhode Island I’ve had 7 lower back oper 2 Hernia 5 on right knee 4 on left knee well last March my Doctor past away and no other Dr in this state would help us I suffer everyday I found a doc that helps me get buy when the end of the day comes it is awful I always think of my kids an mostly my grandsons John there is always someone worse than. Us so God Bless and don’t stop

  19. Cyndi at 3:36 pm

    I know exactly how you feel John. I’ve had my meds cut too, and I’m not even working, just trying to keep the house up and do everyday things. I have to decide what I will do while I’m not in pain and plan everything. Each evening they wear off and I’m unable to do much of anything. My house is a mess, so much I can’t do and nobody cares. I can’t live on the disability money and can’t work to get off of it. They don’t realize those little pills mean the difference between having a life and not.

  20. Charolette Miller at 3:35 pm

    Walgreens has a bad reputation anymore. When I had just gotten out of the hospital I needed a med to stop the headaches due to a spinal..We called them and said this is what we need, do you have this ONE? My adult daughter will pick it up…she comes home with 2 prescriptions and a huge total! WHAT? She called them and said what is this stuff you gave me, he replied whatever it is you ordered???WHAT are you a restaurant ….he gave her 90 xanax and the headache meds, plus my pain meds which were 240 pills…(takes me a yr to take that many) …He said it was a long day and he was tired, he read the wrong screen, and once you leave the store you have to keep the prescriptions…My daughter had not eaten all day and let him have it…brought everything back…talked to the manager and they returned the money. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT MISTAKE? NO MORE WALGREENS!!

  21. Steve Ariens at 3:03 pm

    CVS was raked across the coals a couple of years ago for the actions of excessive controls dispensed by two of their pharmacies in Sanford, FL.. Of course the DEA is going to deny.. if they admitted to it they would be in violation of the eight amendment of cruel and unusual punishment. Our society only worries about cruel and unusual punishment to those terrorists that want to kill us..

  22. Kaylee at 2:50 pm

    I will never fill a prescription at a chain pharmacy. The service is usually terrible, the wait times are super long (even though they usually have a lot more staff than the mom and pop places) and they are cold and impersonal. The pharmacy inside my local medical center is the best. They know me, they almost always have what I need in stock (and if they don’t have it they’ll deliver it the next day, even if it’s a controlled), and I always feel welcome and that my questions will be answered thoughtfully and with care.

  23. John McCampbell at 2:42 pm

    I have been to CVS… They can’t handle the overflow. I went to literally every pharmacy in the area, and got all sorts of reasons why they couldn’t do it.

  24. Tracy Jones at 2:33 pm

    Go to CVS Walgreen got in trouble for filling script they new should not of been filled I have been on20 mg methadone for 9 years with no problems