The “secret” checklist that was never intended to be public knowledge.
Do you fill prescriptions at Walgreen’s Pharmacy? If so, you may have already experienced the effects of Walgreen’s new “Good Faith Dispensing” Policy, which was never intended to become public knowledge. Thanks to one Walgreen’s pharmacy tech, this policy was leaked to news media.
This relatively new policy (implemented this past summer) allows Walgreens’ pharmacists to refuse a prescription written for a controlled medication – which includes meds such as oxycodone, adderall, Ambien, and Klonopin – based on your fill history at Walgreens, doctor information, and even the length of time you’ve been consecutively filling that same medication. If a Walgreen’s pharmacist believes that filling your prescription will be feeding an addiction, they can (and are) refusing to fill medications, whether they are correct in their deduction or not.
This means that if you are being treated for a sleep disorder with a combination of a night-time sedative (such as lunesta or ambien), and a morning amphetamine (such as adderall or ritalin), and you’ve been successfully on this therapy for more than six months, all scripts filled at Walgreens, you could be refused your medications. If you’re being treated for a chronic pain problem with controlled medications like oxycodone, morphine, or fentanyl for more than six months, even successfully, you could be denied your medications, which may mean another trip back to your doctor’s office for a new prescription if the Walgreens’ pharmacist refuses to return your paper prescription or transfer it to another pharmacy.
Pharmacists DO have a professional obligation to refuse filling a prescription if they believe the medication is being abused and/or report the abuse to the proper authorities. That is nothing new. And for chronic pain patients, that is actually a good thing. What is new is Walgreens’ apparent over-reaction to some trouble they got into with the DEA last spring at a Florida Walgreens that was traced back to an influx of controlled painkillers being sold on the black market (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/business/walgreen-to-pay-80-million-settlement-over-painkiller-sales.html?_r=0).
Walgreens pharmacists now use the checklist above to determine whether to “red flag” the patient or not. Any patient who is determined to be filling prescriptions at too many different Walgreens pharmacies, filling prescriptions for the same drug from too many different doctors, paying cash, filling at a Walgreens that is inexplicably too far from a home address, or even filling a prescription for the same drug for more than six months can be red flagged, which is then sent on to the DEA. And even worse, it appears that it’s possible that you may be prohibited from filling any controlled substances at any Walgreen’s locations after you’ve been red-flagged.
What can patients do? The obvious step is to switch to another pharmacy. If you are on controlled substances, you’re already visiting your doctor’s office once a month to pick up paper scripts (per DEA rules). If you do plan on switching pharmacies, let your doctor know. You can call in this information for their records in many cases. Many pain contracts require you to list your pharmacy with your doctor’s office to help identify addicts.
The other thing you can do is fill out the survey below if you’ve been refused medications at a Walgreen’s pharmacy: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/N3WGGNW. This survey was put together by the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association to help determine how many patients have been affected by this new policy.
Another option is to write a letter to Walgreens, letting them know what you think of this new policy. You can do this online by visiting their corporate “Contact Us” page at: http://www.walgreens.com/mktg/contactus/contact-us-forms.jsp?tier3Id=1075.
For Further Reading:
Walgreens’ “secret checklist” reveals controversial new policy on pain pills
Backlash Against Walgreen’s New Painkiller Crackdown
Walgreen to Pay $80 Million Fine in D.E.A. Inquiry
Access to Pain Medication Survey - National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association
Walgreen’s Corporate “Contact Us,” webpage
DEA Drug Schedules