Walgreens Has Started Denying People Medication

Walgreens is one of the largest pharmacy chains in the country. Many rely on their local branch to get their doctor prescribed medication in hopes of treating their ailments and maladies. However, for some people, the guarantee of friendly pharmaceutical service has been replaced with humiliation and a denial of medication, despite their having an authentic prescription from their doctor. Walgreens has started denying people their medication thanks to a new policy that allows employees to determine whether or not they feel the customer is at high risk for abusing the drug.

The main target of these new policies center around opioid painkillers such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and fentanyl. A Walgreens representative stated in an email that the purpose of their policies was to reduce the amount of prescriptions being filled fraudulently. Considering that Walgreens settled a lawsuit with the government that resulted in $80 million in fines for just this reason, the introduction of new policies to protect the company from further litigation might seem like a reasonable action for the company to take.

However, a small, but growing number of critics disagree with assertions that these policies are in any way reasonable the way they are being practiced.

The lawsuit was the direct result of an investigation in Florida, conducted by the DEA and Department of Justice, that revealed that Walgreens was consistently filling forged or photocopied prescriptions for opioid medication and that the erroneously distributed pills were then trafficked illegally. The day after the settlement was reached, customers began experiencing problems filling their prescriptions, even if they had legally obtained prescriptions from their doctor.

Not just any customers, though. People with long histories with their Walgreen’s pharmacy were suddenly being turned away. People like “Robert,” who had been struggling with the severe and constant pain resulting from multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and peripheral neuropathy. He had been filling his prescriptions for a couple of years when suddenly his prescription needed to be verified. He was told it could take days, and he was unable to get back the hard copy of his prescription to take it elsewhere.

At this point, Robert says he began to panic. Over the five years since his diagnosis, his pain has been so severe that at times he contemplated suicide and now he was being told he would have to go up to five days without any medical help to ease his suffering. Upon expressing his concern and incredulity at the pharmacist’s right to take away his prescription, the pharmacist told him to leave and threatened to call the police. Robert waited several days for his medication and was so debilitated by the pain that he was unable to leave his bed to get it when it was finally available.

Robert is not alone in his sudden pharmacy difficulties. Evan Blass, 35, was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and filled his prescriptions at a different pharmacy before needing to make a trip to Walgreens when his regular pharmacy was out of the medications he sought. He was completely denied his medication. A few months later, he went to a second Walgreens location only to be denied again. He was then informed that he would be denied by every Walgreens pharmacy as he had been “blacklisted.”

Then there is “J.C.” who had been filling her prescription at Walgreens for nearly a decade. Diagnosed with thrombosis, she took a combination of opioid medications to help combat the painful blood clots that formed in her legs. The day after Walgreens’ settlement, she was denied any further medication from Walgreens stores. She reports that the pharmacist said to her, in front of everyone present, “We suggest you take it to CVS. At this point we’re just feeding an addiction.”

The use of opiate based pain medication has been the cause of much concern as the rates of abuse and addiction have steadily risen over the last 25 years. Since 1990 the rate of deaths from overdose has tripled, according to the CDC. CNN reports that one person dies due to a prescription medication overdose every 19 minutes. The staggering body count has prompted the FDA to take measures to regulate how and when these medications are being obtained. These measures include reformulating the pills so that they cannot be crushed for injection or snorting, encouraging more careful prescription practices from doctors and establishing a database to help monitor drug use and detect abuse.

It is important to note that these measures are meant to protect people from the dangers of opioid addiction and overdose. They are not punishments for people who suffer with addiction. People who are addicted to a substance are not stuck in that illness by choice. They did not decide to become addicted. Many factors go into the development of an addiction, such as genetics, environmental and socioeconomic factors, and overall health.

Walgreens appears to have developed its own system, which includes a checklist (viewable in the sources section) that aids in pharmacists using their own discretion to determine whether or not a person should be given their medication. Items on the list include checking for a valid I.D. and looking for “red flags” such as if the person pays with cash. Doctors report being inundated with calls from Walgreens pharmacists who demand to know if the doctor actually wrote the prescription, what the diagnosis of the patient is and how long the medication will be needed by the patient. Based on reports from customers and doctors alike, many employees have started enacting these new policies with a stigmatized approach, one that assumes that everyone with a painkiller prescription are addicts. Their approach has resulted in people with legitimately debilitating illness being subjected to lengthy delays or facing a pharmacy intent on denying them the medication they desperately need.

By: Vanessa Blanchard

Walgreens Checklist




The Verge


10 Responses to "Walgreens Has Started Denying People Medication"

  1. Angela Collins   May 18, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    The pharmacist called my doctor and told him I was taking too much medication and now they will not authorize any new medication for chronic pain. I have never heard of this and I was humiliated when my doctor asked if I was a drug addict even though he has been dealing with my pain issues. I am not going back there, does anyone have any other suggestions? How is Kroger’s pharmacy?

  2. Angela   May 18, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    The pharmacist called my doctor and told him I was taking too much medication and now they will not authorize any new medication for chronic pain. I have never heard of this and I was humiliated when my doctor asked if I was a drug addict even though he has been dealing with my pain issues. I am not going back there, does anyone have any other suggestions? How is Kroger’s pharmacy?

  3. Daniel Brown   July 25, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    Walgreens Pharmacy continues to flat out lie to it’s Paitents by telling them ” they are out of stock” A pharmacist pre judgement that that person is an abuser or is selling there medication for profit. I was hit by a Drunk driver who did a great job a destroying my health and well being. I have a doctors diagnosis on file and have filled my prescriptions at Walgreens since my accident. Over 10 years. I don’t want to or even find any enjoyment in the burdon of taking pain medication to have a semi normal life. My walgreen in San Leandro Ca “Washington Ave” is a nightmare. There Pharmacy Manager is a Heartless Idiot who deserves to have his license to practice taken away. Walgreens policy of giving there Pharmacists the right to determine that a person is guilty. Do your job and Report it to the DEA. Changes in walgreens rx tracking will hopefully take care of any problems. Chuck Walgreens daughter was killed by a drunk driver so he took alcoholic beverages out of all of it’s stores for a very long time with many stores just recently carrying them again. I was almost killed by someone who had 4 prior DUIs. Being the father of 4 and someone who choose to keep working and support his family with the help of medications that allow me to do so. Walgreens is going to kill people who depend on certain pain medications to live everyday life. So walgreens takes it from one extreme to another just because of a problem in Florida. Sounds like Walgreens is due for a CEO change. Long gone are the days of Thomas and Joseph Long ” Longs Drugs” where the customer was appreciated and wanted back maybe reason for there success. Walgreens is on a path of destruction marred by lawsuits and fines.

  4. Lori Grimaldi   June 2, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    They al so lie and say they don’t have the medicine but they do just so they don’t have to fill it without looking like they refused to.All stores should be watched and the staff should be flagged as well.Who are they to judge and play GOD?Customer Care is BS they don’t care about the customers only the mighty dollar.They are the pill mill just they pick and choose who they deal to.I hope when more people wake up and read what real situations are happening bc of them on how they are making people suffer after a major operation, chronic pain, or those who have been taking the same medicine for years and can no longer get it because they feel like it.Lets not forget our HIPPA laws are being violated buy some clerk that gets paid minimum wage or more.I hope our Government steps in and takes them down or makes them pay for all the pain, suffering, and stress.Laws and rights are also being violated. Please do an Investigation on all of them including the one that has made me suffer in Charlotte County,Fl. Off EDGEWATER in Port Charlotte.

  5. Matthew Brown   February 11, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    My girlfriend is having this exact issue. We went to a walgreens in Altamonte Springs Florida, across from Florida Hospital Altamonte. She has a spinal simulator for pain management, and it has broken, and is now malfunctioning and sending electrical shocks straight into her spinal cord. To have this implant put in it required drilling holes in her vertebre…this is NOT a small procedure. This of course is causing great amounts of pain. We went to the pharmacist with a prescription given by her doctor, and we have no problem waiting for it to be verified. The Pharmacist we find out later blacklisted her, and now she cannot get ANY meds from Walgreens, even cold medications. So not only can she not get her pain meds, she cannot go to any Aalgreens for any medications whatsoever. We found this out when she went in and they treated her like she was some kind of crackhead criminal.

    My girlfriend is a 25 year old blonde girl, who is clean cut, was wearing a Ralph Laurren shirt when we walked in, and carries a $300 Dooney and Bourke purse. I drove up in my Audi. We are far from looking like meth heads, or pill poppers. We just want her to get her pain meds so she can stay out of the hospital, until she can have her surgery to fix her simulator. She has been on pain meds for 9 years, and we brought all the documentation to prove this. The Pharmacist was a real a-hole for doing this to her.

  6. R Cooper   September 9, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    just happend to me today been going there for years i have injuries that will never stop causing me pain now one pharmicist judged me unworthy and now i can just stop working and providing for my family go on welfare thanks all i want to do is lessen the pain so i can work and interact with my children while i can still walk

  7. marry   April 13, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    Walgreen’s pharmacy tech and pharmacists are very rude. They got caught with their hands in the cookie jar and now we have to pay the price. We should get a dispensary for pain medications and that way people can get treated.

  8. Thomas   March 4, 2014 at 9:03 am

    I am a cancer patient who has to us pain medication to alleviate pain from the cancer as well for the pain from two cancerous tumors on my spinal cord that were removed surgically remover but have done extensive nerve damage resulting in cornice pain.. For a year Walgreen filled my prescription with out a problem, that was until they were charged by the DEA as a result of an investigation in Fl. The Pharmacy at Walgreen is well aware of my condition and my prescription is issued by my cancer doctor on a HOSPITIA script.. The Walgreens pharmacist first told me the did not have the medication in stock. I asked when they would be getting it in and was told they had to order it. and it would be in in two days. Two days later I returned to the Walgreens and gave the pharmacist my prescription he told me that he could not fill the prescription. I asked why and he stated that I could be selling my medication and he was keeping my script. Wrong answer in addition to my photo ID and medical card I the produced my Police ID and asked for my prescription back. He refused and said he was calling the police. Fast forward to arrival of the police after talking with the pharmacist and me the Officer from our local police narcotic strike force told the pharmacist to either fill the script or return it to me. He also told the pharmacist to stop acting like a DEA agent. That all he was allowed to do was call the doctor and check if the script was valid, but since my script was a HOSPITAL generated script he had to fill it or just refuse to fill it and face a potential law suite useless it was for a medication that the company did not carry in any of its stores. Took my prescription across the street to RITE aid and had it filled in 15 minutes with out any questions other then for my medical card and ID. Walgreens is just plainly scared of having to pay another fine., Noted on the FL case Walgreens was filling prescriptions (hand written) for up to 2,000 oxycodone for a single patient for 30 day supply.

  9. disabled twenty years   March 1, 2014 at 10:22 am

    CVS has joined Walgreens in refusing to provide medications prescribed for past 15 years. After Savon RX store closed, prescription transferred to CVS. CVS filled for 2 years, then one pharmacist decided he didn’t agree with my Dr’s diagnosis and refused to fill Rx. I complained to CVS, another pharmacist filled prescription. Then another jerk of a pharmacist refused wto fill Rx because he was “uncomfortable” filling prescription. Being disabled for 20 years from a car wreck I did NOT cause, I know something about “uncomfortable” – he is able to get up and work everyday, doesn’t have a damn clue. And apparently, that is all a pharmacist has to say – magic word- ‘uncomfortable’ NO OTHER REASON required to interfere with doctor/patient privilege and deny medically necessary medication. MEDICALLY NECESSARY, as determined by and concurred with by more than a dozen different doctors over past 20 years. After complaining again to CVS corporate office about being repeatedly denied medication by their pharmacists, requiring 3,4,5,6 trips to store to get Rx, their refusal to call any other area store to help get Rx filled. When they know damn well I am disabled, inconvenienced, running out of Rx. Now the only pharmacist who in his own words was trying to “accommodate” my Rx, has decided or been told to refuse to continue to fill my prescription. In our final six (6) minute conversation, I requested be witnessed by store manager, in full view of cameras, I was accused by pharmacist of being “argumentive” for wanting to know why I am being mistreated, not treated like any other paying customer. He refused to give any explanation what he means by ‘uncomfortable’ – or why – so I ended by asking if there is any specific grounds or reason whatsoever. His response was NO, he is simply ‘uncomfortable’

    This, as much as or more than any other fact reveals a complete failure of health care oversight by authorities, who are apparently uncomfortable doing their jobs as well to secure citizens from abuse and maltreatment, and forced to pay for their unfettered health care.

  10. Christopher Moblo   November 24, 2013 at 8:18 am

    The story states “a new policy that allows employees to determine” , it should reflect that a licensed Pharmacist who has proper training and uses a states website that collates use of abused medications before determining the filling of said prescription is part of the protocol.

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