False Drug Shortage Due to Discrimination of Chronic Pain Sufferers

11 Jul

As I was scouring the net late at night I found the article before that had me sitting there wondering… WTF? It is hard enough to go through life with not only chronic pain, but also the stigma that comes when trying to order the medication necessary for relief. I’ve personally experienced it nearly every time I’ve been to the pharmacy. The pharmacist (or rather the person working behind the counter) is always friendly UNTIL they see the script. Their eyes lower to the floor and you can tell that they are trying to treat me as if I am some sort of delicate situation. However, the script always gets filled. Now, I’m in no way “pharmacy shopping” but since I do not have prescription insurance, I sometimes go elsewhere where my meds are cheaper. The article below takes this to a whole new level. Flat out lying to patients is never acceptable. For someone to flat out lie and deny you medication based on their personal beliefs is an atrocity. Please read the article below and share your comments.

Drug shortage ups suffering for legitimate pain patients
By Marni Jameson, Orlando Sentinel
7:46 p.m. EST, July 10, 2012

Last week, former TV anchor Carole Nelson watched the clock, knowing that in just a few hours she would face the agony of drug withdrawal made worse by paralyzing pain.

Her last oxycodone pill would wear off in 24 hours. She needed more.

However, during the prior 10 days, Nelson had been to 15 pharmacies trying to fill her prescription for the pain medication she has taken steadily for three years. Oxycodone, an often-abused narcotic, is the only treatment of many Nelson has tried that manages her chronic lower-back pain, the result of a seriously damaged and deteriorating spine.

No pharmacy would fill it.

“They all said they didn’t have any and didn’t know when they would get it,” said the 74-year-old professor, who lives in Volusia County.

It’s a line pain patients are hearing all over Central Florida as the crackdown on the state’s pill mills has begun to restrict the flow of pain medications to legitimate patients.

“When these medications aren’t available, it undermines the whole basis of pain management — which is about stabilizing pain,” said Dr. Peter Preganz, who treats chronic-pain patients, including Nelson, at his Lake Mary office.

Collateral damage

Preganz noticed the shortage at the end of last year and said the problem has worsened. Now he sees several patients a day who can’t find a pharmacy to fill their prescriptions. “They have to go place to place and are treated badly. The system is breaking down.”

The tight supply stems from Florida’s notorious prescription-drug-trafficking problem, which has fallen under heavy scrutiny.

In 2010, Florida physicians purchased 41 million oxycodone pills, more than all 49 other states combined, said Carol Burkett, director of the Orange County Office for a Drug Free Community. Last year, a state law took effect that forbids physicians from dispensing controlled substances from their offices.

Legitimate patients are the collateral damage in these efforts to stop prescription-drug abuse.

“Here I was with a legitimate need, and a legitimate prescription from a legitimate doctor, and I felt like a beggar going in with a tin cup. I’d get these looks. I would just cry,” said Nelson, who finally found a pharmacy to fill her prescription.

Two months ago, Mike Melone of Oviedo tried eight pharmacies before finding one that would fill his prescription for morphine.

The 56-year-old former auto mechanic has been taking prescription pain medication for five years to manage the pain from a traumatic hand injury.

“I’d been reading about all the pill-mill stuff,” he said, “but never thought it would impact me.”

At his local big-chain pharmacy, the pharmacist told him that location no longer dispensed controlled substances and sent him to the chain’s Waterford Lakes store. As he drove there, he stopped at five or six other pharmacies.

“All of them told me they could order it, but that it might take months to get it,” he said. At the Waterford Lakes store, the pharmacist refused to fill the prescription because Melone lived outside the pharmacy’s service ZIP code.

The brush-off

All that is pharmacy-speak for “we don’t want to deal with this,” said pharmacist Angela Adams, who works in a retail pharmacy in Lake Mary. It’s a brush-off.

“The people having problems are those who don’t have an established relationship with a pharmacy,” said Adams, who teaches pharmacy classes at Florida A&M University. “If someone comes in with an out-of-town address or says he’s been driving all over town and every pharmacy is ‘out,’ that’s a red flag. We tell him we don’t have it.”

Chronic-pain patient Fred Brown, 60, has been on pain medications since 1997 to manage chronic upper-back and neck pain. He never has a problem getting his pain medication because he sticks to this rule: one doctor, one pharmacy.

“Knowing what I know, that if I bounced around, my name would be flagged in a database, I stick with my program,” said the Orange County resident.

In addition to being wary of patients who pharmacy-hop and doctor-shop, Adams said pharmacists also look at prescribing physicians. “If the doctor is questionable, and the prescription is for a controlled substance, it’s easier to say you don’t have it.”

On the other hand, she said, if the patient is a cancer patient or has been coming to the pharmacy for a long time for legitimate back pain and the pharmacist knows the doctor, there’s no shortage. “You make sure you have that medicine.”

Feeling the heat

“Although the pharmacists who turn patients away are also turning away revenue, they don’t want to risk their licenses,” Adams said. “We’re supposed to be the gatekeepers.”

Many pain patients think the Drug Enforcement Agency is behind the perceived shortage.

“That’s what the pharmacies tell us,” Nelson said.

Mia Ro, spokeswoman for Florida’s DEA, said that’s not so. “We’re not aware of any shortage of oxycodone or any narcotic pain relievers in the state.”

Pharmacists may be nervous, she said, and think the DEA is watching in case they fill too many prescriptions, “but we’re not in the business of telling doctors or pharmacists how many pills they can prescribe or dispense. And we’re not trying to prevent patients from getting their medicine.”

Meanwhile, Brown empathizes with those pain patients having trouble filling prescriptions. “When you are in tremendous pain, and you see a doctor who specializes in treating pain, and that doctor writes you a prescription that gets denied, that is simply inhumane.”


Posted by on July 11, 2012 in Emotional, Pain - Physical, Pain - Psychological


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5 responses to “False Drug Shortage Due to Discrimination of Chronic Pain Sufferers

  1. bo

    July 12, 2012 at 07:44

    I Agree with you 100%, I am so frustrated with the whole system right now it is one big mess.
    I am in my 30’s suffer from degenerative joint issues through my entire body have 3 slipped discs in my back, bone marrow edema syndrome and the list goes on. I have had 6 major operations and go to a legit doc and get a legit prescription, I drive 30min to my doctors because i live in a county that has no pain doctors, every month i have the worst time getting my meds filled. last month i drove to 25 different pharmacy’s trying to get my meds, i had been going to one pharmacy for 12 years filling my stuff now they say new policy cant fill docs out of county. ok so i drive back to pharmacy by my doc they say cant fill because i don’t live in this county, this happens over and over all day long finally i go to a mom and pop pharmacy they say we have them (thank the lord} but we dont take insurance ( ok i don’t have any too many pre-existing injuries) next they say we only take cash ( starting to get a bad feeling now) drum roll please its going to be 10 times what you normaly pay. So at this point i have just about lost it (i look at him say nothing and walk out)so the day ends with my script still unfilled me in 10 times more pain from driving all day and out 50 bucks for gas. This is not how people in pain should have to live,we have enough to deal with already. If i could trade in all the meds for no pain i would do it in a heart beat, but i cant this is the hand i was dealt. please don’t make it harder for me and treat me like a junkie.

    • doesithurt

      July 12, 2012 at 11:22

      I’m really sorry to hear that. I know how tough it is and we need to do something about it. I’m going to call a local congressman today to try and talk about some things. I want to figure out a way to make this work for everyone without issues! I’ll keep you and everyone posted on here as to what’s going on. Please hang in there!

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