Former CVS tech comes forward about lying to pts

 

Patients profiled at pharmacy counters

By Kean Bauman. CREATED Feb 23, 2015

Patients with legitimate prescriptions are being turned away at the pharmacy window. It’s something Contact 13 has been investigating for more than a year.

For the first time, a former insider speaks out exclusively to Darcy Spears to expose how some pharmacists are profiling people in need of pain pills.

“It would be left to the pharmacists’ discretion to see which prescriptions we filled and which prescriptions we didn’t,” says Rose Velazquez a former Pharmacy Technician.

Rosie Velazquez cared for patients from behind CVS. pharmacy windows for nearly 30 years. She was let go last year, but not before she saw a disturbing change.

“It was difficult for everyone. Customers were going from store to store and we can hear their frustration.” And so has Contact 13.

Since late 2013 we’ve heard complaints about many drugstores. “I went to 5 different pharmacies,” said Sean Ladner, a quadriplegic who lives with chronic pain after serious car accident.

“All Christmas Eve and all Christmas Cay, she was in pain, screaming in pain,” says Carl Chamberlan, who lost his wife to cancer.

We have heard from people suffering, in desperate need of medication. “And they refused me. I went back 2 or 3 times,” says Carl. But pharmacy after pharmacy denied their prescriptions for relief.

“I went from Walmart to Walmart, to a Walgreens to an Albertsons and back to my Walmart,” says Mary Borowski.

Contact 13 discovered major pharmacy chains were reacting to a DEA crackdown on prescription drug abuse. CVS. and Walgreens were slapped with massive fines. Some retail stores lost their license to sell controlled drugs so they put in strict procedures to fill prescriptions and started turning many patients away.

“We’ve had patients, had to go to anywhere from 5 to 10…we had one patient go to 30 pharmacies,” says Dr. Marx a pain management specialist.

“It was hard to get the medication because we would order 30 bottles from the manufacturer and they would only send us 10,” says Rosie.

Rosie says she was ordered to turn away patients who came from other stores. “We would tell them that we do not have the medication in stock and we had to lie to our customers. I really felt bad doing that.” She says a supervisor began profiling customers “She would take a look at them and if they looked rugged, she would say, ‘tell them we don’t have it.’”

What else would cause the pharmacist concern? “Tattoos definitely,” says Rosie. Rosie says a pharmacy manager was suspicious of young adults in their 20s and 30s even if they’d come directly from a hospital after surgery or being injured in an accident. She was even told to turn away husbands whose wives just had C-sections.

“’Tell them we don’t have it,’ when I knew well we did have the drug in stock.” And here’s a kicker: people who looked sick and in pain were suspect too. “Someone who actually didn’t look like they were taking very good care of themselves,” says Rosie.

Sometimes pharmacies Rosie worked at were out of certain meds. “But the majority of the time, it was just refusing the customer because of what they looked like,” she explains. She says the pain pills they did have were to be held for regular customers.

So if that’s the case, why not tell patients the truth? “Oh we’re not allowed to say anything like that! We’re just allowed to say we didn’t have the medication,” says Rosie. Many of the patients we spoke to in the last year say they were treated like addicts or, “like I was a drug dealing criminal,” says patient James Kruger.

Rosie says there is a system in place to weed out abusers, which could be done with a few clicks on the pharmacy computer. “So we were able to tell that they were either coming from a pill mill or they were trying to get the same medication twice in a week.”

CVS has never agreed to any of our requests for on-camera interviews and this time is no different. They sent us this statement: “Ensuring that patients with a legitimate medical need have access to pain relief medication is part of CVS/pharmacy’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health. Ms. Velazquez’s allegations are not consistent with our Company’s policies, procedures or values. At the same time, the abuse of controlled substance pain medication is a nationwide epidemic that is exacting a devastating toll upon individuals, families and communities. Pharmacists have a legal obligation under state and federal law to determine whether a controlled substance was issued for a legitimate purpose and to decline to fill prescriptions they have reason to believe were issued for a non-legitimate purpose. Pharmacists must evaluate each controlled substance prescription and consider a variety of factors when exercising their professional judgment as to whether or not to fill a controlled substance prescription.”

Rosie understands the dangers of abuse, but she couldn’t stand by and watch legitimate patients get caught in the middle and turned away. “That hurt me, Rosie says, “because I truly care about the customers and getting their medications and that was my job — helping them feel better.”

For more than a year we’ve been demanding answers from the major pharmacy chains, lawmakers and the Nevada Board of Pharmacy. We’ve been getting the same broad response over and over again with no meaningful solution: Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic that needs to be addressed and there needs to be a balance to make sure legitimate patients get their medication. But hundreds of patients who contacted us are still in pain and have no answers.

If you’re being denied or delayed when trying to get a prescription filled let us know about. Send us an email to 13investigates@ktnv.com

 

24 Responses

  1. Thank you Rosie!! I Call B. S. On CVS!
    Pharmacies should all be Clicking their computers in order to Stop the Addicts! If they all used the system that’s in place these addicts, dealers, and pill mills wouldn’t be able to take the medications away from the patients that’s truly in pain..

  2. There has to be plenty of Ex pharmacist and pharmacy technicians that used to work for Walgreens or CVS that would be willing to testify on behalf of pain patients That were turned away when indeed the pharmacy had the medication in stock. This would be the basis for a class-action lawsuit for medical malpractice.

  3. Also the buck should stop and start with the prescribing Doctor. Pharmacies should not be put in the middle of determining whether or not a patient needs a particular pain medication. If a doctor is prescribing pain medication that is unnecessary then it is the Doctors license that should be on the line. Period. By going after the pharmacies and giving them the responsibility for determining whether or not a medication is medically necessary only adds to the confusion and causes unnecessary suffering of chronic pain patients.

    • You are 100% correct. The blame and the control both need to be taken from the pharmacists. The DEA created all of this.

    • It’s both the pharmacist and the Dr. both are held accountable, like joined at the hip. According the reading the whole DEA website.

      • In my professional opinion.. the DEA is expecting Pharmacists to do things that exceed their authority under their Pharmacy Practice Act and do not have the education/training to do. A Pharmacist’s basic functions is to determine that their is no drug interactions between the pt’s medications, no allergies with medications and the dose is within acceptable range. Requiring Pharmacists to determine if the prescription is “appropriate for the pt” when the pharmacist does not have access to the pt’s medical records… nor has the education/training/ability/authority to do a personal examine on the pt. It is illegal for a prescriber to prescribe any medication for a person that they have not done a in person exam on a pt…why is it allowed for Pharmacists to do this ? The starting, stopping, changing a pt’s medication is a basic function of the practice of medicine. No one – including the Boards of Pharmacies, Medial Licensing Boards, various professional association has taken action to stop the DEA from insisting that Pharmacists perform functions/tasks outside of their authority under their license. But.. it would seem that the DEA – in various areas – have little concern as to what is legal/illegal when it is something that they believe should be done.

  4. I hope she can file for wrongful termination. I know she’s speaking the truth when CVS in Smyrna Tennessee would not even order mine- and I will never believe that they were out until the unusual snow we had this week. What about the patients that could not get to the pharmacy on the 30 th day or the clinic that didn’t open for 3 days. So much unnecessary suffering.

  5. I believe she’s telling the truth…I’ve temped at an independent up north and I heard stories from patients who would ask us if there were shortages on certain drugs because that’s what CVS told them. We had everything and told them…No, there’s no shortages of such and such pain meds, we’ve been getting it not problems. As a mom who has has 3 C sections….if my then husband had been denied take home pain meds…believe me it would NOT have been pretty for me to have to have gotten out of the car to give them a piece of MY mind about NOT getting my Percocet. We didn’t get my post C section meds filled at CVS anyway as they weren’t even in our town when I had my kids. But he would have had to have bail money. Talk about cruel and unusual punishment…I believe that’s in the Constitution. I hope CVS gets the pants sued off of them

    • CVS and Walgreen’s already did get sued/fined by the Federal government via the DEA. These pharmacies can no longer afford to provide opiates to patients. Drs. need to put indication of treatment on the prescription so a cancer patient can get care…The large spread abuse and sale of opiates by “legitimate” patients have caused states to restrict the sale of these drugs. Same thing occurred with Sudafed once it became the starting ingredient for methamphetamine production.
      The drug makers of these opiates enjoyed their profits for many years..but in reality it is patients that now suffer..and Drs. need to stop over prescribing.

  6. Those few clicks of a computer don’t show any out of state fills, so that can get hairy. And sometimes it’s not the patient that deters the pharmacist from filling, it’s the doctor. Today, I had even a very respectable local doctor commit what would be considered fraud if the right parties were to find out how she ACTUALLY instructed the patient to take it. This patient being someone who she admitted could sink her license and has played games with her and with us for months. Yet because of the way she actually wrote the prescription (faking a dose increase {double the dose, mind you}for 4 days only), and with a little documentation from me that I spoke to her about it, I could fill it….and I did, even though I felt pretty uneasy about it and a lot of people probably wouldn’t have done it (and rightfully so) Damned if you do and damned if you don’t sometimes.
    So, sometimes there are more factors to it than just what the patient looks like. (Just a side note- this patient doesn’t look the least bit concerning, either.) But if people are turning those in obvious need of it away without at least assessing the situation or checking to see if they even have it in stock, that’s pretty wrong.

  7. If you heard the story, they are doing this because they received large fines. I also know that pain meds are not being stocked in locations because the government is not allowing them to be stocked. Think about it. Do you really think they want to turn away profits? If there is a question with an Rx, call the doctor. Perhaps I don’t have issues because my store gets my Rx’s electronically.

    Too many people abuse pain meds. On November 11, 2014 I was prescribed (for pain from an infection in a leg wound that was not healing) 130 Vicodin. 1 tablet, every 6 hours – so I had a 30 day supply. Since I have a high pain threshold and my pain is specific to night time (which again doctors don’t understand why – it’s so intense that I get waken up) I have 103 left, so doctors prescribe for me without a problem, and CVS gladly fills the order.

    I am up right now – 12:52 AM because of pain in my leg. I cleaned my would, and took an Alka Seltzer (had spaghetti for dinner). I had a blown knee and nothing worked. The doctor told me that all he could do was prescribe a narcotic. I told him not to – I did not want to trade one problem for another, so in my case, they know that I will not take a Vicodin unless I genuinely had to. I used to get migraines and would not turn to the narcotic until day 3 of an episode. Why? By day 3 I was in so much pain that I had little choice since on day 3 the pain would cause lost work time because literally I could not function.

    Being honest, if you take them for a few days, at the slightest pain your body starts pushing you to take a pill. It takes willpower to beat that feeling back and many people do not have the willpower to say no. Vicodin with 750 mg acetaminophen is no longer manufactured, and the most you can get is 375 mg. For me that makes a difference. Everyone’s body is different.

    • Mario..imagine your pain level on day 3..being every day pain levels! Im thrilled you can handle whatever pain you have with an over the counter drug. I for one would love to have those level of pain again. I have 3or 4 bulging disc. Sciatic nerve damage..hip that screams in pain.tailbone that you can’t sit or stand on..can’t sleep for my pain. Im just saying…I hope you never get the level of pain that thousands of people deal with all day every day. It is a sadife to live and then with the DEA coming down on patients in real horriffic pain..its sad. Yes..there too many people out here getting pain meds and selling them for people wanting a high..or people who have a doctor that can’t get their pain levels adjusted..J/S..Don’t say what you wont do until you have walked in a chronic pain patients shoes. Trust me..its not a life thats even worth living some days..its a miserable struggle..God Bless all those that suffer needilessley every day.

      • Amen. You hit the nail on the head as far as how a chronic pain patient lives. It really isnt worth living most days. And with no light at the end kf the tunnel, its depressing. Most pain meds dont even work well enough to kill all of the pain. But I can’t imagine not having anything. I’d of commit suicide by now. I suffer from 3 types of neuralgia in my neck, for unknown reasons. Been suffering 7 long years now, with it only getting worse each day. And no end in site. I’m usually in bed most days. That is my life because of pain. Not an easy life to live. Did I mention I’m only 28? This started in 2011. I was 22 when pain started. I question every day of this will finally be the day that km in so.much pain that I just can’t take it anymore.

  8. My old Walgreens has a sign up that says the pharmacy has the right to refuse filling a narcotic script. My husband has been turned away many times from that one pharmacy. We then tried our closest CVS and they do carry certain pain meds.i am thankful that we have now both found pharmacies that are helpful and accommodating.

  9. After breaking my back 10 yrs ago I was put on pain medication. It’s been many surgeries and issues since. The worst pharmacy I ever tried to get a script filled was CVS. Countless times I was turned away. When I asked how long it would take to come in I was told lie, after lie. Then they would reject my script for not having certain info on it. Next month it would have that info and it would need something else. It was frustrating. I hated to go there, but my usual pharmacy would get hit by groups of people with scripts, paying cash. They would go from one pharmacy to another cleaning them out. So while I try and see it from both sides it’s still frustrating to be without meds and in pain. Yesterday, the CDC released a statement that deaths from opioid overdoses has tripled since 1999. How much bigger has the population grown since 1999? Are these deaths from people with legitimate scripts and conditions or are they from illegally acquired drugs. Even though I have 10 yrs of medical history, numerous operational and procedures and a rare nerve condition even going to an ER people like me are treated like addicts.

    • THank you i Agree have the same As you and that’s the way I get treated not right at all!!!!

    • 32 5 back surgeries over 10 years… I was treated and still treated like shit. I have tats and a piercing but I’m not an addict I organize my pills into boxes and realized my pharmacy shorted me one morphine and 2 Norco this month. They stole from me.

  10. Wow wow wow so glad I stubble across this Iv been on meds for quite sometimes cause of my bad back cvs kept denying me saying the same then I had to switch to Walgreens then all the sudden out of no where my prescription had been altered by three pills with a different colored ink went to police and pharmacy of coarse is pointing that I did it when I take a higher more potant than what ER prescribed so needless to say I’m now being investigated so everyone watch ur backs with these two pharmacys cause I would never in my life do that!!!!!!!!!

  11. I have commented on several articles like this one and have posted in my chronic pain group on Facebook trying to get this message out to pain patients. Don’t use chain pharmacies if you can help it. Use small, independently owned and operated pharmacies. You’ll get a better standard of care, you won’t get the corporate ‘policies’ used to profile patients and after using the same small pharmacy for awhile the staff will probably remember your name.

    The pharmacy that I use is located in the local, small town clinic. The pharmacist is the mayor. Everybody that works there is kind and friendly, and they look out for their customers in every way. They try to save us as much money as possible, they will work out payment plans if a person can’t pay at the moment and they look out for drug interactions and so forth.

    I’ve gone to chain pharmacies and have been treated badly. Never again. Not only have I never been treated badly but if they don’t have something in stock.they’ll order it and usually have it the next day. The idea of keeping business local is very appealing to me as well.

  12. I am all the way in Florida with a serious health issue. Perfectly healthy, physically fit, upper middle class working professional and I have been treated as if I was trafficking a kilo of cocaine by CVS. They have also told me they are out of stock which is a blatan lie. Horribly treated by employees. Again, work for a Fortune 500 company and no where near junkie looking. This issue is horrendous and needs to stop.

  13. This just happened to me. I took in an Rx for Percocet and flexeril. The pharmacist would not fill the prescriptions. He said ” there was no medical reason as to why the Dr should have given me those pills. I told him I have spinal stenosis and almost always in pain. He said “sorry I just don’t feel right about giving you these medications . I usually go to Walmart but I no longer have ins and it was cheaper at cvs with the Goodrx app.

  14. Heres what you have to do, START STANDING UP FOR YOURSELF. A Pharmacist is NOT A DOCTOR. They have NO RIGHT to make a medical diagnosis or refuse to fill a prescription, IT IS NOT THEIR RIGHT TO MAKE THAT DECISION, IT IS THE PHYSICIANS RIGHT TO DIAGNOSE AND TO TREAT… Heres what I did and it worked. I have a prescription medication that I take, as you know under heavy control, and the pharmacists started treating me like a drug addict. I told them immediatly that behavior won’t be tolerated, and they shaped up real fast at the thought of being reported to their superiors. Then the next time I came in an attempt to spite me at another pharmacy, they decided that they’d tell me they backordered the medication and that after waiting 1 week… It still hadn’t arrived. I told the pharmacist that if that were the case, I am calling the Drug Enforcement Agency and reporting her to the detectives for potential drug trafficking and theft of controlled substances, because what ELSE would you be doing with a drug that should have arrived already and you claim hasn’t arrived… I’m sure an investigation would also lead to her removal of a license… The point is, they filled those pills FAST when I told them that… These people LIE and CHEAT to save their own butts and jobs, so don’t give them ANY PITY… if they want to LIE to your face, make sure that you remind them that YOU pay their salaries and their degrees and licenses can easily be taken away with a SNAP of the fingers… YOU ARE THE BOSS, NOT THEM… THEY ARE LICENSED TO FILL PILL BOTTLES AND GIVE ADVICE ONLY IF YOU ASK, ANYTHING MORE THAN THAT RAISES A RED FLAG FOR A DEA INVESTIGATION OR REVOCATION OF THEIR LICENSE. STAND UP FOR YOURSELVES, GOD BLESS ALL!

  15. I have experienced this also. The drill of pain management appointment then calling pharmacy after pharmacy with many telling me they couldn’t tell me over the phone to tell me they didn’t have the medication once I arrived at the pharmacy.

    SOLUTION: Go to an independent pharmacy!!!!! I believe it was Steve that suggested this on another post and I followed his advice and WOW what a night and day difference. To be treated as a human being is a beautiful thing! Thank you, thank you, thank you Steve for the suggestion!

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