Friday, March 28, 2014

What's Wrong with Healthcare: Getting a Pain Pill Prescription Filled

You want me to fill your prescription?!?   
This series of posts has been a long time in the making.  This year marks 10 years since I started my not-so-new life with daily, disabling chronic pain and fatigue.  I have a multitude of mixed feelings about this milestone, as does my hubby and everyone else who knows and loves me.


As I mulled over my situation yesterday, I realized that, among other things:
  1. the current health care system can't fix me or make me even a little bit better
  2. I am not happy with much of the "health care" I receive
  3. the health care system doesn't know how to care for people with chronic illnesses
  4. my initial assessment that health care reform wasn't going to effect me was WRONG
  5. I believe there are things my health care providers could be doing for me, but the culture within the health care system often prevents them from providing me with care to relieve my pain, symptoms and stress from chronic illness
Which brings me to Rant #1.

Can You Fill My Prescription?


After years of living with pain and struggling when my pain flares up, I found a pain medicine physician who believe in palliative care, i.e care to relieve my pain, symptoms and stress from chronic illness.  She prescribes narcotic pain medication for me.

I got my second prescription for morphine in mid-January 2014.  I took it to the pharmacy where I got my first prescription filled. When I presented my prescription at the drop-off window, I was told that 1) they didn't have the medication in stock and 2) I needed to check back with them at the beginning of February to see if they get it back in stock.

Really?  I have to wait 2 weeks to get my prescription filled.  And you won't even do me the courtesy of calling me to let me know when you have it? That's not great health care.

Let's Try This Again.... 



So then I get the flu.  And I get busy with a bunch of other doctor's appointments.  I wasn't so low on my pain medication that I needed it right away, but I didn't forget about getting the prescription either.  So it's February and I'm at the pharmacy picking up another prescription, and I remember to ask if my pain medication is in stock.  The pharmacy tech tells me yes, but then I realize that I forgot to bring my prescription!  Ugh.

So some more time passes before I finally find myself back at the pharmacy.  And this time I have my prescription in hand.  Yay me!  I present my prescription again, and again I am told it is out of stock.

Well this time I won't take that for an answer.  I ask the pharmacy tech to order it for me.  She tells me they will "try" -- no guarantees -- and I need to call them or come back on April 2nd to see if the medication has come in.

Really? Again?  This is b***s***.

The Reasons Why My Prescription CAN'T Be Filled


So I talk to the pharmacist.  He tells me:

1) they don't keep this in stock because it's a lower dose than what most patients are prescribed
2) they have problems getting this dosage from their supplier
3) they are the 4th busiest location for this chain and their store has problems keeping this dosage of morphine in stock because of the volume of business they do

Blah, blah blah.  Wait, did he just tell me if I was taking a larger dose of morphine he could fill my prescription???

Then I asked if he could call another location to see if they have the medication in stock.  The pharmacist refuses, stating that 1) other locations won't give him that information over the phone and 2) another location would find it suspicious if he called them asking for this information.

W.....T......F!

It's Complaint Time


Here is the thing.  Right by the drop-off counter is a Notice to Consumers poster from the California State Board of Pharmacy.  The poster says:
"This pharmacy must provide any medicine or device legally prescribed for
you, unless:
  • It is not covered by your insurance;
  • You are unable to pay the cost of a copayment;
  • The pharmacist determines doing so would be against the law or potentially harmful to health.
If a medicine or device is not immediately available, the pharmacy will work with you to help you get your medicine or device in a timely manner."
So when I get home, I head over to California State Board of Pharmacy website and I file an online complaint.

I also head to the chain pharmacy's website and fill out an online complaint there too, letting them know I filed a complaint with the Pharmacy Board as well.

So Will I Ever Get This Prescription Filled? 


Really needing to get my pain medication ASAP, I call another location.  I know this chain's policy is NOT to tell callers if they have narcotic medications in stock because they are afraid of being robbed.  So I start by giving my name and phone number so they can look me up in the system.  Then I ask if the medication is in stock, letting them know I tried to fill my prescription at another location and was unsuccessful. 

I get lucky.  A very nice man puts me on hold, checks, comes back on the line and tells me they have it.  But I guess I won't know for sure until I get my hubby to take me there tonight.

I think there is something really wrong with healthcare if it takes this much time, energy and effort to get a pain medication prescription filled.



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