If You Fill "Controlled Substance" RXs at Walgreen... Beware!
This is for YOU if you survived the gauntlet of the misguided "War On Drugs." The constant "CFS/ME Pain" had become so severe that you had to bite your pillow to stifle your own screams; but your pleas for prescription pain medication were ignored as you dragged yourself from one physician to the next. Just when you were on the brink of suicide SOLELY to escape the untreated pain, you found a compassionate physician! Since then, you've dangled from a precarious tightrope between physician, pharmacist and law enforcement - a delicate balance, always in jeopardy of collapsing and taking your life with it! And as if "the tightrope" weren't enough, it seems you've unwittingly given Walgreen Pharmacists power over your life because of a SECRET Internal Policy letting ANY Pharmacist unilaterally "flag" YOUR records with "WATCH NARCS" that I translate to "Suspected drug addict/pusher" although Walgreen would disagree.
The words "WATCH NARCS" recently appeared with my name, address and other identification on a label accompanying a non-narcotic prescription medication! Once entered in the computer, it's apparently on all Walgreen records available to Pharmacy staff everywhere including clerks! Particularly disturbing was an empty space adjacent to this label. I obtained the following information from two reluctant Walgreen Pharmacists: The adjacent space was, in fact, due to removal of a duplicate label that was "safely" filed on the back of my RX form. I was NOT supposed to see or know about the label! Nor was I to know about Walgreen's Internal Policy for which there is no State or Federal requirement. It's an option available to ANY Walgreen Pharmacist, without supervisory review or approval. They refused to say who labeled me a "suspected drug addict/pusher", why or when. Neither Pharmacist had knowledge of "CFS/ME". One could not pronounce "... Encephalomyelitis." Neither replied when asked, "Wouldn't a 3 minute chat with me and/or my physician about the RX you found so disturbing have been appropriate before "labeling" me a "suspected drug addict/pusher"? If they had spoken with my physician, they would have learned of his 30 years' experience with "CFS/ME"; the DEA is very impressed with his procedures, safeguards, records, etc.
My comments and conclusions: This is an ARROGANT, secret Internal Policy of questionable motivation, implemented in the private-sector despite no existing Government requirement. This thinly veiled allegation of drug addiction/"pushing" is a stigma of which the customer has no knowledge and, therefore, no opportunity to dispute. It is exercised arbitrarily and unilaterally by unqualified persons (practicing medicine without a license) without oversight or accountability... virtually on a whim! If specific procedures exist, they are flawed as evidenced by my POSSESSION of a label I was NEVER supposed to see. Although told the duplicate is in their file, how can I be confident it (or others) isn't with the Drug Enforcement Agency, my Health Insurance Company, or "reading material in some Jack J. Jackson, Jr's bathroom"?
SINCE THIS HAPPENED TO ME, IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE: I wish I had some encouraging words; but it only gets worse ... and regarding "CFS/ME", we all know that ignorance is NOT bliss! Having been "to the very edge of my tolerance" (and back because of a blessed physician AND most intelligent, compassionate person I have EVER known, Dr. _____ from my very first "controlled substance" RX, I was meticulous with every imaginable precaution! A few examples are: I gave Walgreen a detailed letter stating that I am under the purview of and in compliance with Federal and CA Laws, etc. I explained in detail, verbally and in writing, any time the quantity was larger than normal. When they dispensed too many tablets, I phoned to assure the Pharmacist the tablets were safe with me and returned them within hours! I assured all Pharmacists that any questions were always welcome at any time! I submitted RXs from ONE physician only! I used ONE Pharmacy exclusively! The type, strength or dosage of my pain medication has not escalated, even though taken daily for TEN years! After careful self-evaluation to determine whether I might have caused this dangerous mistreatment, I merely conclude that perhaps I submitted a "controlled substance" RX when a Pharmacist was in an ugly mood or on a "Power Trip." But that's NO reason to jeopardize my LIFE!
These Pharmacists do NOT understand (or care) how easily this arbitrary "WATCH NARCS" destroys the delicate balance between physician/pharmacist/law enforcement SPECIFICALLY regarding persons with "CFS/ME". It's a "DEATH SENTENCE" if law enforcement contacts a physician who is intimidated into denying further RXs and/or Health Insurance Companies stop coverage. They are unaware of the extreme risks attached to a "CFS/ME" diagnosis. They are ignorant of the mistreatment EVERYone with "CFS/ME Intractable Pain" has surely suffered if they have survived long enough to find a compassionate physician. Yet Walgreen carelessly granted such overwhelming power, without oversight, accountability or even "CFS/ME qualifications!" And to do this in total secrecy, as though they KNOW it's wrong?! Not only are there no such State or Federal requirements, this optional Internal Policy seems in conflict with the general philosophy of the California Pharmacy Board's guidelines. WHY? WHAT is Walgreen's motivation for this SECRET Internal Policy?
Although a Walgreen Pharmacist stated that the offensive annotation was removed from MY records, how can I be sure that it wasn't merely recorded "elsewhere"? As a close friend in the Midwest said, "Some of these prescriptions are reported as though they were court documents and nearly made lifelong public records." She makes an excellent point that perhaps we should all consider. One thing I'M sure of is that this "CONTROL" is contrary to one of MY basic beliefs ... that, barring for example DEATH for commission of a capital crime, the ONLY persons entitled to "LIFE OR DEATH POWER" over me are MY licensed medical doctor and ME!
[Ed. Note: The author is a long-term PWME/C. The physician of the author was consulted for this article and, although agreeing to be named, is not for protection purposes.]
The National CFIDS Foundation* 103 Aletha Rd, Needham Ma 02492 * (781) 449-3535 Fax (781) 449-8606