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

 

186 Responses

  1. I just left CVS, who claims they’ve been out of hydrocodone/apap for nearly a month, and they’re apparently out of the forms they need to order it from the manufacturer. I’ve had the same prescription filled there for years without problem. When I told the clerk I’d have to transfer all my prescriptions to another pharmacy (and there are many) she seemed completely unphased. Clearly they no longer want my business but are too chicken to say so. The sad thing is, I asked about this prescription nearly a month ago and could have arranged to transfer it to another pharmacy then if they’d been honest about not wanting to fill it. Disgusting.

    • I find it hard to believe that CVS has not switched over to the new electronic CSOS ordering system for C-II and still using the “old” DEA form 222… the new electronic ordering system has been available for at least 10 yrs. Personally, I refuse to deal with any company that expects me to BEG THEM to let me spend my money with them and I don’t understand why other people put up with companies that treat them like CRAP.

  2. I am a previous Cvs employee as well and my store was located in a lower socioeconomic area. We were always told to tell people we did not have pain medications—all the time….! Pain medications as well as medications to treat addiction, like suboxone. Our pharmacist in charge did not want “that kind” of customer in our store. This is VERY common. We would get people coming in from another Cvs (which lied about being out of stock on certain medications—we could see in the computer that the other store had the medication in stock) and we would lie to the patients as well. We also profiled for sure—if you looked sketchy at all, then whatever you wanted, we were “out of it”—because CVS can’t be busted for saying “we are out”…!!!! I doubt it will change.

  3. I just left CVS where I normally get my prescriptions. I was told the pharmacist is on vacation and no one else can order the medication. I was told to try another store. I did and 4th store had the medication but refused to refill it. The pharmacist said the store was not in my zip code and that I should try a store closer to home. I will be contacting their district office regarding the racial profiling of me by their pharmacist. This is so disgusting. What the hell does my zip code have do with my pain and need for medication….is this 1965 or what?

    • WOW! Unbelievable. Pharmacists are now questioning MDs too. I’ve had one about once a week or two question my Rx and I’ve an active DEA, STATE controlled substances license and a special one for pain management and one for writing Suboxone for rehab!!! I’ll tell you, the people made a huge mistake when they handed their healthcare over to the government. Now there’s little we physicians can do for legit pain. It’s outrageous. People who’ve never had a day of serious pain are making decisions about people in serious chronic pain, the vast majority of whom need their medication to function. It’s getting ridiculous.

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