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Backlash Against Walgreen’s New Painkiller Crackdown

By Judy Foreman
Guest Contributor

You may be in for a shock if you try to get a prescription for any controlled substance – from Ambien to opioid pain relievers – filled at Walgreens anywhere around the country.

Walgreens recently announced what it calls a new “Good Faith Dispensing” policy under which the pharmacy giant – the largest in the nation – is suddenly requiring its pharmacists to take “additional steps” to verify prescriptions for controlled substances.

cheukiecfu/flickr

(cheukiecfu/Flickr)

This process, the company says, “may, at times, require” the pharmacist to contact the prescribing doctor to make sure the diagnosis, the exact billing code, the expected length of therapy and “the previous medications/therapies tried and failed” are correct.

In plain English, this means that Walgreens pharmacists are going to call your doctor, or at least your doctor’s office, to see if your doctor did the right thing in giving you a prescription for pain relievers and other drugs. The policy is provoking distress and outrage among pain patients, physicians and others.

In a telephone conversation, a Walgreens spokesman denied that the aggressive new policy was specifically triggered by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s crackdown on the company in the wake of problems with infamous “pill mills” in Florida. Until recently, unscrupulous “patients” and unscrupulous doctors in Florida have colluded in diverting massive quantities of prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone (an ingredient in OxyContin) through fake clinics dubbed “pill mills.”

In June, Walgreens and the DEA announced an $80 million settlement to resolve the government’s charges that Walgreens failed to control the sales of opioid pain relievers in some of its stores.

The government said that distributors of pain relievers failed to monitor suspiciously large orders for opioids Necessary as that crackdown was, a presumably unintended result is that legitimate pain patients are finding it harder to get the medications they need. Continue reading