“I’ve been spit on multiple times, I’ve had people throw their prescription bottles, their prescriptions, pocket books, cellphones, bottles of stuff that was over the counter at me

Triangle pharmacists say threats, attacks are part of a typical work day


One day after a customer opened fire inside a Garner Walgreens, wounding two people before he was shot by a Wake County deputy at a nearby restaurant, some pharmacists are saying threats are a daily occurrence on the job.

Pharmacist Gina Tandarich felt scared when she learned her former co-worker was one of the victims of the drug store shooting.

“It’s just sheer terror of what those people are going through,” she said.       

Tandarich used to work with Sarah Wright, the 31-year-old pharmacy manager who remains in critical condition following Thursday’s shooting. She said she knew what Wright and her coworkers must have been going through.

“I’ve been spit on multiple times, I’ve had people throw their prescription bottles, their prescriptions, pocket books, cellphones, bottles of stuff that was over the counter at me,” Tandarich said.

Authorities said the shooting at the Walgreens at 1116 U.S. Highway 70 stemmed from an issue customer Stephen Denning experienced with his medication.

Tandarich said the verbal and sometimes physical attacks and threats are all part of the safety concerns she’s had about being a pharmacist for years.

Rachel Factor shares those same concerns. She’s been a pharmacist for two years and, in that time, she said she’s experienced her share of customers who were angry about their prescriptions.

“I’ve had people scream, scream and holler and yell. Sometimes they threaten to call the police,” Factor said. “It can be difficult.”

Factor and others said telling someone their prescription can’t be filled or is delayed can be a difficult conversation at times. Ultimately, though, they said they’re just trying to do their job and follow the law.

“With the opioid crisis, the laws are getting stricter and the more strict they get, the worse it is on us, because people want that medicine and they want it now,” Tandarich said.

“Anytime you’re dealing with the public, you never know how people are going to react. You just have to hope for the best and try to provide the best service that you can,” Factor said.

Wright, according to friends, is alert and continues to recover at WakeMed. Her co-worker, Brandon Gordon, remains in critical condition.

Denning also remained at WakeMed on Friday night. When he is released, he will be taken into custody and charged with one count of attempted murder and one count of assault with a deadly weapon.

16 Responses

  1. So….A pharmacist who is obeying laws,regulations,statues etc., who would put her job or license at risk by disobeying said laws, etc, and is also the middleman between your insurance or medicaide or whatever that doesn’t want to pay for your rx early (by their standards) should be cursed,threatened, hit,shot,run over by a train, have your dog sicced on them, condemned to hell, or whatever you think is appropriate. Yeah, I’m OK with that.

    • James, we are not talking about a pharmacist obeying the laws risking their license. We are talking about rude pharmacist who treat you like a criminal seeking drugs even tho you have a valid prescription and the meds are due for pickup. It’s a persons right to pick up prescribed pain meds by the law but when you have a rude pharmacist playing a controlling god second guessing your doctor’s medical training and letting everyone else around hear how bad a person you are is wrong. You have to remember that when people are suffering in pain they can become a little short. That is the time the pharmacist shows empathy for the patient and try to help that person as nice as they can be. The problem is the pharmacist bows up and becomes rude with a patient that is already suffering and trying to send them home suffering without their meds I can see some get really mad. Is it right, NO !! I think the pharmacies need to provide empathy training. I think the only training they get now is how to spot a drug seeker but nothing about deescalating their customers.

      • If they are gonna play God then they should be outfitted like fort Knox that’s all I got to say about that

  2. I am sorry that pharmacists are suffering, but perhaps if they’d take a stand & try to help divert this BS “crisis” & put national policy on a sane, rational footing, they’d get more positive feedback. I personally have had 3 different pharmacists –this was BEFORE the manufactured crisis– refuse to fill my pain meds because they “didn’t think anyone needed that much pain medicine.” I had never seen these 3 before; they knew nothing about me, nothing about my conditions, could see from the state records that I never indulged in doctor shopping or any other shady activity…but they tried & condemned me at a glance. I remained as polite to them as I could –an honor that they did NOT extend to me, btw; they had no problem yelling at me loudly enough the entire store could hear.

    I have a wonderful pharmacist now, who goes out of her way to be kind & helpful. I’ve thanked her profusely numerous times, & written her a letter of appreciation (in which I was terrified to describe what she did to help, lest she & I both get in trouble, so it’s so nebulous as to be silly).

    I realize that often pharmacists are insanely overworked. I also know that an awful lot of them have no problem deciding who is “worthy” to get their lawful prescriptions, and hand down judgements upon sinners who use various birth control meds. I don’t believe it’s any of their frigging business to deny medications that someone’s doctor has prescribed just because they “feel uncomfortable,” or don’t “believe” in something. They don’t work in a church. If they want the right to do their job based upon their tender moral sensibilities, perhaps they should.

    I do know what it’s like to work with the public, though. The fact is that pharmacists could get a whole lot more of support if they didn’t add to their own image as adversaries to pain patients & others.

    • i have been routinely treated like a criminal by walgreens pharmacy. i am disabled and must take psychiatric medication. there is already enough shame and stigma on people with mental disorders without walgreens pharmacists shaming and accusing disabled patients. it causes so much trauma and anxiety to be accused and mistreated every time i have to call in a refill. i believe this behavior comes from the top down. it seems to me that walgreens has created this culture of abuse with it’s policies

  3. Unfortunately, even though it is not the Doctor or Pharmacist at fault they are the ones that have to tell the patient that for reasons that generally are political and not medical that there is a problem with the Prescription. However, there is absolutely no excuse for harming another person simply because the patient is angry and frustrated. The opiate Hysteria has not only made people in pain suffer it has eroded their trust and faith in the Medical Profession, the Government and many other health care industries. It is not based on any evidence or fact because even the CDC now admits that Opiates used by patients that are prescribed by responsible MD’s are not even part of the problem. The USA has used these same tactics for alcohol. Marijuana and now Opiates and it has never been an effective deterrent. Portugal has decriminalized drugs and the rate of usage and addiction fell dramatically. Why doesn’t the USA do that? Because the USA is only first in Crime, Prison Incarceration and Drug use. That is not a good legacy.

  4. I can understand being so upset but could never actually come to the point of harming another because that will follow you wherever you go. I think it’s wrong to highlight that it’s pain meds because im sure a diabetic would never experience this type of profiling. In fact I sure would like to see a diabetic struggle to get their insulin just to see how that turns out because their just a dependent on their medications as we are for ours!

  5. It is certainly wrong for anyone to attack anybody. There would be a LOT less of that if you pharmacists would treat us as human beings. Having a pharmacist scream your HIPAA protected information all over the store, refuse your legitimate rx, lie to you and say they are out of your medicine, tattle their unjustified opinion to your doctor, profile you as a drugseeker, and basically treat you like garbage tends to upset us because you are chock full of DISCRIMINATION.

  6. I don’t think it’s appropriate for individuals to throw things do any kind of bodily harm to another human being! However, it’s all in the approach… in the exchange…
    If a pharmacist is being condescending, all-knowing and or making their own set of rules then there could definitely be issue!

    • I agree with Cathy Kean. Pharmacists should do what is legal. I have always trusted pharmacists. But in this era of pharmacists refusing to fill valid prescriptions I can understand the frustration. I handle this by not going to stores that play God.

      I have, however, been treated (loudly so the rest of the patrons could hear) like crap while they were being filled. Stores should treat their customers like the “cash cow” they are. These customers help pay the rent there.

      I foresee that There will have to be armed security at drug stores. No pharmacist or employee there should live in fear.

      But customers should be treated like the patients they are. With courtesy and compassion. Not like criminals. I don’t know a single patient that wanted a life altering disease.

      • Lauri, Perfectly said! Couldn’t agree more! Especially Walgeeens/CVS who treat anyone filling a script for pain medication as if we are seeking a high, we m ut st be addicts, The lies they tell to the chronically ill, sending the suck on pharmacy crawls. Dam right people want their pain medication and want it now, When we are nothing but lied to and forced to wait sometimes days on end for medication that should NEVER be abruptly stopped. Many pharmacists do not care what the person in pain is going thru. It’s disgusting. And oh yes that’s the best when some of these so called pharmacists think nothing about degrading you in front of whoever is standing there, speaking loud enough about your PRIVATE prescription for pain medication…It’s awful. HIPPA laws no longer exist. And with the way things are going I can see pain pts being sent off to one central location to get our meds lining us up like some low class citizen. I pray God shows none of them any mercy!!

      • Omgoodness hun that is uncalled for smh


  8. It shouldn’t be like that, it’s wrong. I see both sides of the story. You tell a person that lives in chronic pain that you are taking the only thing that helps them function in life they explode. They have just been told you are being punished.
    The second thing I have seen is the pharmacist tells the rudely this is TOO EARLY to fill or tell them this is a narcotic and we will have to get a hold of your insurance company or doctor and that will take up to two days.
    The pharmacist looks at them like they are a druggy and the person is just plain tired of fighting for their right to be treated. When a person has suffered in pain for years than told they are not getting their pain meds any more the pharmacist just became judge and jury.
    Is it right? No!! If I was a pharmacist I would show lots of compassion and try to understand where they are coming from.
    I’m fortunate I have not been treated like this in person but when I call me refill in to the doctor on Friday ( Friday you have to call in before 12 noon or you have to wait till Monday afternoon) and the doctor faxes the pharmacy I will receive a text on Saturday IT”S WAY TOO EARLY on my phone and saying you will have to wait till Sunday. Yes, I can see the customer already getting upset with a text like that. All the pharmacist needs to do is send a nice text saying your prescription will be ready Sunday and thank you for your business. What a world of difference that would make.

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