Value Your Privacy? Avoid Walgreens Pharmacy

Health Tips / Value Your Privacy? Avoid Walgreens Pharmacy

One evening a couple of weeks ago while at a movie I felt my cell phone vibrate. This was unusual, since virtually all my patients correspond via my often-checked e-mail. The caller ID was unknown to me, and was not that of my answering service. I would have waited 15 minutes until the movie ended, but there it was, vibrating again. And so, muttering to my wife “Tell me how this ends,” I headed for the lobby.

The caller was a pharmacist from Walgreens.  She inquired if I knew a certain Ms X, naming one of my longtime patients. I told her I did and asked what the problem was.

“Did you write her a prescription on (a date two days earlier) for (a common pain medication)?”

I thought to myself, “What a question! I write anywhere up to 50 prescriptions a day and she thinks I’m going to remember the specifics of one from two days ago.” However, I knew the patient well, and knew her meds, so I confirmed the prescription as mine. “Thank you,” she said, “Just checking.”

But after I hung up, I went into a slow boil. The call was totally unnecessary and wasted everyone’s time, especially the patient’s, who was waiting for her prescription to be filled. What is it with some pharmacists making a criminal of every customer who hands them a prescription for a controlled drug? An experienced pharmacist can spot prescription fraud a mile away. And if she’s in doubt, she can simply hand back the prescription with a “Sorry, I can’t fill this.”

The pharmacist who had me paged apparently needed a character reference on her customer before filling the prescription. Had she bothered to check her records, she would have discovered the woman was indeed a regular customer and that this was an ongoing medication for her. If the pharmacist was suspicious, the State of Illinois maintains a helpful prescription monitoring website for health professionals that keeps tabs on the use of controlled medication (opioids, amphetamines, anti-anxiety meds, sleeping pills) by everyone in Illinois. In about ten seconds, by clicking through the website, the pharmacist could have discovered that her customer used this medication regularly, had just one prescribing physician (me), and refilled her meds at appropriate intervals.

Disturbing fax from Walgreens

I would have chalked up this phone call to a newbie pharmacist had I not received a most disturbing fax from Walgreens a couple of weeks later. Just a few quotes and comments will give you the gist. Remember, this letter is being addressed to prescribing physicians (emphasis mine):

“Many of you have raised concerns about the confidential or private nature of your patients’ health information. By law, pharmacists are granted access to private health information necessary for them to perform their responsibilities.”  (My comment: this is a VERY loose interpretation of the existing laws.)

“Under Federal regulation, pharmacists have a responsibility to ensure that each prescription for a controlled substance is ‘issued for a legitimate medical purpose.’ To make that determination, pharmacists may need to gather additional information,  including the patient diagnosis and expected length of therapy. We understand this diligence takes extra time, for our patients, and for you, our partnering physicians. We want to thank you for taking this time…”

Your initial response might be: Well, there are some bad characters out there. Dope dealers and such. I can see why a pharmacist might want to call my doctor and check on this before he hands over a bottle of OxyContin.

To which I answer: If you agree with Walgreens, kiss your privacy adieu. Believe me, no one in health care–not WholeHealth Chicago, not Rush, not Northwestern–runs a caller ID on every incoming call. I’m not at all suggesting you try this, but were you to have a friend call your doctor’s office and say, “Hi, this is William Jones from Walgreens. We’re just checking on your patient (insert your name). Did the doctor prescribe (name a med you take)?” you’ll be horrified how quickly your privacy barrier is transcended.

In actual fact, given the vast numbers of controlled medications in use, the percentage of prescription drug abuse is extremely small. One study on opioid analgesics–OxyContin and the like–pegged “inappropriate use” (addiction, re-selling drugs) at less than 1%. It’s also true that abuse of prescription narcotics is epidemic, but when a pharmacist knows her customer base and uses the prescription monitoring website described above, there is virtually no justification for calling a physician or manipulating HIPAA (privacy) health care laws to probe into a customer’s personal medical records.

Walgreens’ master plan?

So I had to ask myself: what could be the real reason for instituting a policy that is guaranteed to get pushback from both customers and their physicians? I think there are two factors at play.

First, the economics. It always boils down to economics. Having been raised in a drugstore myself, I know controlled drugs are a real pain (pun intended). They require meticulous record-keeping by both physician office and pharmacy and are the first targets of burglaries and employee theft. Also, since most of the better pain medications are still brand-name, maintaining inventory is quite expensive and the profit margin is very low.

When a store fails to maintain proper surveillance on its controlled drugs, the fines are substantial. All in all, with lots of work and little profit to show for it, Walgreens probably wishes controlled drugs would just go away. Let CVS have the business. A steady decline in controlled drug use is distinctly possible with Walgreen’s new approach. If physicians are badgered at all hours by “concerned” pharmacists, they’ll just write as few controlled prescriptions as possible.

Second, Walgreens’ ambitions to enter all aspects of health care make privacy irrelevant. Once the Affordable Care Act is in place, Walgreens will enter the fray and start selling health insurance. They already operate hundreds of Take Care Clinics, which are poised to convert to primary care offices. Last week, it was announced these clinics will start treating chronic illnesses (blood pressure, diabetes, etc). With all the pieces in place—insurance, primary care offices, and pharmacy services–Walgreens becomes your total health care provider, fully entitled to access all your medical records.

Now envision that nice young person totaling up your purchases at Walgreens, first asking “paper or plastic?” for your cigarettes, Altoids, Tampax, Jack Daniel’s, and Reese’s Pieces. Then, with a smile and a quick flick on her screen, she cheerily asks if your herpes flare-up has cleared while printing a quick discount coupon for your overdue Pap smear. Behind you in line, a curious seven-year-old asks his brother in a too-loud voice, “WHAT’S A PAP SMEAR?”

But seriously, Walgreens’ aggressive invasion of your privacy is not at all amusing. Let me end this with a most disturbing clip from the 1999 film Magnolia. By way of background, Julianne Moore plays a young wife caring for her much older husband who’s at home dying of cancer. She is utterly exhausted and on the verge of a meltdown. The clip picks up as she stops at the pharmacy to get her husband’s pain meds and her own antidepressants.

Based on the fax I received, the only thing this scene lacks is the Walgreens sign in the window. Watch carefully as the senior pharmacist dials his phone—that’s the call Walgreens wants doctors to expect. That’s the future. And I warn you, the next three minutes are deeply unsettling.

If you’d like to share a pharmacy experience with other readers, please do so in comments below. Meanwhile, Walgreens management may want to go back to the drawing board on their motto “At the Corner of Happy & Healthy.” It’s one of those res ipsa loquitur moments.

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD

42 thoughts on “Value Your Privacy? Avoid Walgreens Pharmacy

    i am a disabled man.i survived a stroke which left me with physical handicaps and some psychological problems. i have been seeing the same psychiatrist for many years. he prescribes medication for my chronic insomnia due to my stroke. the last time i attempted to have my prescription refilled a pharmacist named gigi refused to fill my prescription,accused me of stockpiling drugs and i went for a few days without anxiety went through the roof. i thought i might have to check in to hospital.i finally broke down and called my doctor. somehow he was able to convince the pharmacy that i needed my meds and they finally filled them. this kind of policy is dangerous,insulting and discriminatory against disabled people

    leslie PEOPLES
    Posted February 13, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    It’s disturbing enough that Walgreens pharmacy voices your name and address over the P/A system at the pick up window, and has in the past left controlled substances log book info on the counter with names and addresses of customers for any junkie to easily steal. What’s even more disturbing was my recent experience with a clerk at the pick up window, who despite being asked for privacy’s sake to take the patient and verification information from a written note, reads it over the P/A anyway, then does it AGAIN after voicing the complaint, smiling with passive-aggressive glee. Consider the possibility your future home’s break-in and drug loss was due to overheard information made public courtesy of your ‘friendly’ neighborhood Walgreen’s.

    Posted May 11, 2018 at 10:53 pm

    I feel ashamed every time I have to fill a prescription. Why do I have to be a criminal every time I enter the counter. Why do their eyes gaze at the computer for prolonged periods of time and dart me dirty glances every other moment. Why does my doctor have to be called. Why am I treated poorly. Why does it truly feel as though every time I visit to do something as simple as pick up a prescription, notes are added to my account. It really hurts that I have to deal with being physically ill and then I’m shamed for taking what I’m prescribed. Why do I feel that I’m being violated, insulted and embarrassed. Why do the pharmacists and technicians feel empowered by treating people this way. They are like food servers, speaking horribly about their customers because they themselves are just despicable people behind the counter. How did this culture begin? I fear the implications of where it is leading us as outlined in your article.

    Posted December 20, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    I just went on their website to refill a prescription that I hadn’t used in a while and I was asked security private questions that I only get when someone does a background check on me through my ss#. THIS IS AN INVASION OF MY PRIVACY AND HOW DARE THEY DO THIS!!! I did not answer the questions and and currently moving all my scripts to CVS and closing my account with Walgreens again. I WILL NEVER GO INTO THAT STORE AGAIN. No one has the right to affiliate my private prescriptions with my ss# or any of my history. This is not acceptable!!!!

    Posted June 12, 2017 at 10:02 am

    Nice to hear this coming from a doctor. Every time I go to Walgreens, it’s a replica of that scene in the film Magnolia with Julianne Moore. Due to PTSD and severe anxiety, I’ve been on the same meds and going to the same doctor for almost 10 years now, yet they continue to call my psychiatrist; they even had the audacity to tell my dr there ‘opinion’ of me, which I don’t think he appreciated very much seeing as they were slighting his expertise by doing so.
    Nothing worse than being questioned and treated like a drug addict not only mid-anxiety attack, but also (and even worse) mid life-threatening withdrawals.

    Posted April 5, 2017 at 4:34 am

    I am a busy pharmacist simply put if a doctor has no time to confirm a narcotic prescription then I will simply hand it back to the patient unfilled and they can go elsewhere.

    Jose Carpintero
    Posted November 17, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    In MN when taking opiates you have to sign a form committing to one pharmacy. It’s a pain but establishes
    a track record and history.

    Also mandatory random urine samples to keep the DEA happy where the script is being dispensed.

    Anyone who is going to sell their script then has nothing in their sample the next month is going to have a problem.

    The pharmacy of my choosing is a Walgreens.
    I’ve never had a problem and have been on high dosages of Morphine,Vicodin,percocet,and muscle relaxers for about 10 years now.
    If anyone should be treated like an addict it’s me
    but everyone is always great.I too have been showing my DL even after 10 years call it CYA

    *Food for thought
    Heavy & Long term Users
    To decrease the possibility of addiction to narcotics
    try to maintain a 5 day on / 2 day off schedule.

    Posted November 5, 2016 at 4:36 am

    It’s a breath of fresh air to find an article like this. This doctor is a true patient advocate. It’s quite simple really. While well acquainted with Pharmacology, a pharmacist cannot diagnose illness nor can they prescribe medication. So.. they shouldn’t waste time questioning the doctor on these matters. It is not within their scope of practice and it is a clear violation of a patient’s privacy. Count the pills and leave treatment to the doctors. You don’t manage the problem of drug seeking by treating every patient treated for pain as an addict.

    Posted May 2, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    I am a chronic pain patient who has given up. Between having to drive 100 miles each way to find a doctor who would even write me a prescription for the medicine I need to improve my quality of life, and having the pharmacists treat you like less of a person, and half the time they don’t even stock my medicine, which is a common and inexpensive drug; I just save myself the trouble anymore, and don’t even bother with doctors.

    My ex worked as a pharmacy tech for CVS for several years, and she regaled me daily with tales about how the pharmacists and techs basically have nothing better to do than gossip about patients, and described in great detail the contempt that they treat their customers with. Calling them drug addicts and gossiping about their lifestyles and conditions. Let’s not even get into the incompetence and theft of narcotics by the same people who treat every customer like a suspect and a degenerate.

    And as for me? Well, don’t worry about me…for now, I have a little plant called ‘kratom’ that takes care of all my pain needs. Soon even that will be gone, thanks to the FDA.

    Posted February 14, 2016 at 7:26 am

    I am a pharmacist at CVS. I agree that the pharmacist from Walgreens was being overly cautious. There is no reason to call the MD if the pharmacy already has an established relationship with the patient and the doctor.
    I will call if the patient is getting multiple controlled substances from different doctors.

    Posted January 7, 2016 at 2:25 am

    Hi Forrest
    Actually about a year after I wrote this piece, responding to complaints from doctors and a position paper from the AMA, Walgreen’s stopped doing this unless the pharmacist really was concerned about a possible illegal prescription

    Dr E
    Posted December 3, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    Outside of your first comment about the pharmacist wasting your time, which he or she was, there is nothing but ignorance here. If you would like to have a civil conversation where I break most of this down and embarass you, I can and will. If you’re only here to confirm your new world order style theories,you can just let me know and I’ll stay clear.

    Forrest long
    Posted December 3, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Thank you for your comment Dr. I wholeheartedly agree. I have been a defense lawyer for 30 years as well as a judge, arbitrator and have represented pharmacies in the past. I have also become a pain patient after my severe c5-6 herniation with c-7 bulge. After 2 yrs conservative treatment I had neurosurgery having been given a prognosis of being at risk for quadriplegia. I had a fusion with plate and screws. It went quite well for a while then the dull constant pain returned. After trying alt. treatment with steroids for 2 years to the point of developing cataracts in both eyes I had to begin taking oxycodone and contin after not needing it for 5 years. Its now different where walgreens is concerned. At the request of clients and friends with similar problems I did some legal research and factual inquires. It seems that Walgreens problems are of its own making when it was investigated by the DEA for its incredible failure to do basic inquiries of prescriptions for pain killers. In addition its distributor had doled out incredible amounts of such drugs from highly questionable orders. So the DEA brought administrative actions against Walgreens which were consolidated . The isues here are its licensure for such volumes of diversion and what may it do to keep them. It was determined that Walgreens as a business used numbers of prescriptions filled a its locations to determine bonuses and other means of compensation. In the settlement agreement the Dea required that such an incentive be removed and that it come up with a new plan of how it would determine legitimate controlled prescriptions. It was also fined 80 million dollars. Walgreens signed the agreement and came up with its Good Faith determination method in which to determine which prescriptions were illegal. Problem is that it put the onerous on its pharmacists who could not now ever make a mistake, but mislead the public patients, everyone that it had already was using this program as a leading healthcare provider to fight diversion of controlled drugs. It never told customers now why it would not fill such prescriptions. It didn’t tell them that it wasa result of its own grossly negligent conduct and that how it had to jump through DEA hoops to keep its license. It didn’t tell them that it now needed all kinds of information from doctors before it would fill such prescriptions. Because it was now out of chances that its real policy was a default “do not fill” type, without any protections for patients if they could not get their medications, for days or weeks.In doing so it sought information that its pharmacists were not qualified to interpret, nor that followed the legal requirements of such licensure and infact invaded the professional expertise of physicians who were qualified to determine if the controlled drug should be prescribed. Such usurpation has lead to a chilling effect on the treatment plan by doctors for their patients by pharmacists who now felt duty bound to follow their employers standards rather than those requiremnts put in place to prevent those less qualified from creating a defacto nullification of those who by law are the only ones to determine if certain controlled drugs are to be provided. Here doctors are in a very complex multifaceted role when treating pain. They are not only academically trained, but also clinically trained to do this. When this is assaulted by untrained providers (pharmacists)it completely subverts the healthcare system especially when those most inexperienced when unsure or with selfcentered prejudgment and without recourse by the patient deny the drug ordered for treatment. This is now being done in the name of stamping out diversion as if the majority of pain patients are out to divert pain medication to sell on the street. May chronic pain befall all those who prejudge and therefore by default and ignorance deny those medications to those that need them. The former Walgreens pharmacists I spoke with are scared to death of filling an illegitimate controlled prescription. Not because of their Board, or the DEA, because they understand isolated incidents will occur even with vigilance, but by their employer who is out of chances and has told them they are out and on their own. Yet, when a catastrophic incident occurs because by default a prescription was withheld, the board will not look to the Walgreens policy to determine if it should have been provided, but rather the same statutes, rules and regs. of the DEA and State Boards under which the oath of ethics was taken. Here the employers policy is irrelevant because it is not law and every licensed pharmacist knows how to check for bogus prescriptions without such policy references that exceed his license authority.

    Andrew Marshall
    Posted September 15, 2015 at 9:52 pm


    Posted June 26, 2015 at 10:45 am

      Some of the pharmacy staff have judgement about some of the medicines I have to take. It is a personal issue between me and my Doctor and they have no right to judge!!! I have felt judgement at times and I do not need it because they do not live in my body nor do they know my medical conditions and what the hell I have experienced so I think they need to take sensitivity classes.

      Lori San Pietro
      Posted June 28, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    I brought my prescription to Walgreens on Tuesday for Oxycodone. The pharmacist told me that they had to verify it and I’ve been having this problem all the way until today…its Friday. They finally contact me back after I called them everyday and hearing they are doing everything they can to meet my needs. So I get this call back after ny prescription was verified with the doctor just to hear them say that they dont have to fill it and to come pick it up. They treated me like a piece of garbage and wasted my time with them. Y in the world after talking to my doctor would you say that you are not going to fill and bring it to another pharmacy. I now am going to call Corporate and tell thwm about my situation because I was treated like I was less than a human. Is there anywhere that I can go that I will not have this problem cuz I’m about to just give up

    Posted June 5, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    My 95 year old Mother is going through this right now – not with pain medication, but with Eye Drops! She is legally blind, has Macular Degeneration, and cannot drive. She is very frustrated with Walgreen’s right now. I’m surprised this has been going on as far back as 2013, Mom has never had a problem with getting her medication until May, 2015.

    P Trewin
    Posted May 19, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    recentI recently had a very degrading experience with the Walgreens where I live. My Dr. has been prescribing a narcotic drug for pain for 3+ years. I usually take it to CVS where there is no problem. Unfortunately, this last month I let my Rx run out thinking “No problem, I have the paper prescription I will just take to CVS to get filled.” Well, CVS was short and would not be getting the medication until Monday. I was already late on Frily had a very degrading experience with the Walgreens where I live. My Dr. has been prescribing a narcotic drug for pain for 3+ years. I usually take it to CVS where there is no problem. Unfortunately, this last month I let my Rx run out thinking “No problem, I have the paper prescription I will just take to CVS to get filled.” Well, CVS was short and would not be getting the medication until Monday. I was already late on Friday…so I took it to Walgreen’s across the street.
    BIG MISTAKE! After waiting for 2 HOURS (by now it’s Friday, 5:30) I was told to come back later, that some “additional paperwork needs to be filled out.”No one bothered to tell me they had to contact my Dr. When I finally found out I was shocked. Why hadn’t they made me aware of this BEFORE 5:00 so I could contact my Dr.??? Furthermore, the REASON for contacting him (he was not on call) was what I immediately thought to be none of their business: my diagnosis. My Dr. Wrote why, right on the prescription tablet, I needed the medication. I got pretty mad at the technician and mentioned that if they REALLY need to know, it HAS been written on the prescription! I was told It was not good enough because they need an ICD9 code!!! I reminded the tech that I was paying through private insurance so an ICD9 code was not required and that this was an invasion of my privacy. She completely ignored me. Did I mention that I was also told by Walgreens “I wasn’t in the register list (???)so THAT was the reason they needed to “verify” my prescription. Also, when I brought it into them initially, the tech IMMEDIATELY wanted to see my DL and wrote the number on it.
    I ended up getting my medication around 2:00 the following day AFTER my Dr. called them/sent numerous faxs to them.
    I have been taking this for 4+ years and have never had a problem with CVS. It was just that they were out of stock that month. I lost valuable work time because of Walgreen’s not to mention the delay in getting the proper doses of meds in me on time.
    Walgreens is not entitled to such information my Dr. said. He made me promise to always use CVS so I can TRULY be HAPPY and HEALTHY!!!!
    Thank you so much for sharing your article as I am so happy to see this certainly wasn’t an isolated case.

    Tina A.
    Posted January 24, 2015 at 11:15 am
    5/20/2013, Value Your Privacy? Avoid Walgreens Pharmacy | All Things Chronic
    Posted December 17, 2014 at 1:49 am

    I have had issues with Walgreens and I will not go back. I am a fibromyalgia sufferer and I also have a ruptured L4 disk. I need pain meds monthly and I was treated as if i was a drug dealer the last time i went to walgreens.

    j carson
    Posted December 2, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    Thanks for posting this story Dr. E.
    I just switched from Walgreens to CVS for this very reason. The pharmacists at CVS are respectful and professional like they are supposed to be.
    “See ya never Walgreens, on the corner of later and loser.”

    Kristen Anderson
    Posted May 23, 2013 at 11:21 am

    One of my friends has a daughter who has been caught up in doing bad stuff….one thing was she stole some of the sheets from the prescription pad in the doctors office that was left in the room with her when no one else was there. Sorry, but I’m going to have to side with Walgreens on this one!!! People doing drugs can get their ingredients to make meth this way…or any other drug for that matter!!!

    Chari W.
    Posted May 22, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Hi Chet
    First, click the link on ‘Walgreens selling health insurance” to read about their plans in this area
    Second, click the link ‘the fines are substantial’ and you’ll see that Walgreen’s new policy is a knee-jerk reaction to what apparently was sloppy record keeping of control drugs in one state. Just because one Walgreen’s distribution center screwed up shouldn’t mean that every Walgreen’s pharmacy should subject every Walgreen’s customer to the third degree. Just read the other comments to appreciate what Walgreen’s own customers are saying about the way they are being treated.
    Let’s say you agree with the Walgreen’s policy. Let’s also say (Heaven forbid!!) you have some dreadful condition like cancer of the pancreas and you need Oxycontin to control your pain. According to the Walgreen’s memo, the pharmacist can call your doctor and ask, “So, what are you giving him Oxycontin for?” And your doctor is supposed to answer, “Oh, he’s got cancer of the pancreas.” And the pharmacist then asks, “So, how long will he be on the Oxycontin?” And the doctor is supposed to answer, “I dunno. Until he’s dead, I guess.” And the pharmacist answers, “Check. Well, I guess he can have it.”
    Sorry, Chet. Inappropriate conversation. I don’t buy it. There are still some areas in our lives that should be off limits to a corporate America checking up on things

    Dr E
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Wow! I have attended TCM sessions at Whole Health as has my wife. I was also employed by Walgreens for over 41 years before retirement. I’m amazed at your response to their call and even more so at your depiction of Walgreens alleged conspiracy to invade people’s privacy. I know of no plans to sell insurance. One of my roles at Walgreens involved Loss Prevention and I can tell you that the extent of substance abuse is epidemic. Furthermore the DEA and other federal and state agencies are increasingly demanding that pharmacies exercise extreme caution when dispensing substances that may be addicting. I know of many individuals with legitimate medical conditions that led to depression, pain, etc. and that some of these individuals and their spouses became addicted to hydrocodone, anti-depressants, etc.. I also know of many doctors who engage in criminal prescribing to feed drug habits. What you describe seems to me to be a legitimate effort to confirm a prescription and nothing more. I’m not naive enough to think that somewhere someone may be conspiring to invade people’s privacy, but I’m appalled at the leap you have taken to accuse a longstanding reputable company of conspiracies that have no ground in reality. I love Whole Health and urge you rethink your position

    Chet Young
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Recently filled a Sched II Rx at walgreens and the newer pharm there said now they had to submit a copy of my driver’s license each time one is filled; is this a new law?? Or was she lying?? I should have spoke to the pharm Mgr. as it was invasive & unsettling, to say the least.

    Posted May 21, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    I’ve already had to answer questions there before they’ll fill a routine rx. I have a doctor who prescribed the meds. Walgreens doesn’t need to know my blood pressure or blood test results. Unfortunately, my insurer requires me to go there. Staff pretty much knows I’m going to lie about whatever they ask.

    Sharon Villagomez
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    I am having THE hardest time getting my pain med filled regularly and without hassle at any CVS other than the one down the block from WHC, which is incredibly inconvenient since I live on the South Side. I was considering switching back to Walgreens for this reason, but not now! Thanks, Dr. E. I discovered there actually is an independent pharmacy in my neighborhood (wish I had known this sooner!) so I’ll try them next month. I’d much rather support a local business and perhaps neighbor anyway.

    Posted May 21, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    Hi Eliza
    A high index of suspicion is one thing, and yes, pharmacists need to be on the alert. However, the very vast majority of their customers are not criminals and have no criminal intentions. Yet far too often they are made to feel guilty for no reason except the pharmacist is seeing evil where there is none. The reason I am so critical of Walgreen’s is that I get far more calls on this issue from Walgreen’s than any other chain. I talked to two local non-Walgreen’s pharmacists about this before writing today’s entry. Both said how they can almost always spot fraud, check the Illinois website first, and rarely need to call an MD.

    Dr E
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    sounds like the pharmacy will determine if the diagnosis warrants the narcotic; its appropriateness. It should be left to the treating dr to determine the need. I can see the scenario you wrote about at Walgreens; likely to be the future business model for healthcare..get rid of doctors; patients can determine their care via the internet and walgreens!

    Debra Young, DPM
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    It’s unfortunate that your article can’t be printed by the Tribune.
    Thank you again for all you do

    Posted May 21, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Shame on you for posting this! Pharmacists are on the front lines, often dealing with fraudulent prescriptions, stolen prescription pads, ‘scrips filled too early, etc. Kudos to that smart and brave Walgreens pharmacist for taking a moment to check into a situation that seemed fishy to her. As a daughter of a pharmacist, I’ve heard MANY a story like this and know from my father’s experience that often the pharmacist’s hands are tied. I congratulate this pharmacist for following up and listening to her instinct–no matter if, this time, there was nothing to worry about.

    Here’s a story for you: My father was once in a very similar situation behind the counter (not at a Walgreens). A man brought in a ‘scrip that looked fishy to him. My dad called up the docter and sure enough, the doc had had his prescription pad stolen. My dad refused to fill the prescription and put an alert out throughout the stores.

    Maintaining a high index of suspicion–however unfortunate–is just part of a pharmacist’s job. I’m so disappointed to read this from you, Dr. Edelberg. It was so disrespectful of the hard work our pharmacists do each and every day!

    Posted May 21, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Dear Dr. Edelberg: With all due respect, you sound like an arrogant, entitled and privileged person who is angry that you were stirred out of an enjoyable movie. Is Walgreens any better than CVS or other pharmacies? You admit that – “It’s also true that abuse of prescription narcotics is epidemic.” Where are people getting these meds from if not from pharmacies??? You highlight Walgreens, but perhaps the entire pharmaceutical industry is sick. How is the consumer to know? We consumers need better information.

    Anne Smith
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Dr.E, this shared article on Walgreens is no big surprise to me, I only wish more pharmacy users and Dr.’s wouldn’t wait so long before they became fed up. I recently had an experience with Walgreens that was such a waste of time, rediculous, and untruthful on their part, it was unconsconable. While waiting 2 days for them to fill a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication, they were actually the cause of my uncontrollable backlash, which I didn’t need on top of all my other issues. One late evening after leaving my husband at the hospital where he had been admitted for a heart attack, I ran to Walgreens to pick up a tranquilizer that my Dr. had ordered hours before. At 10:00p.m., by myself I was somewhat nervous about going to pick it up, but, felt it necessary . At times, outside this Walgreens there are some very unsavory characters begging and just hanging out. Which is another concern, in that a drugstore allows street people and likely drug dealers or addicts to hang around outside their doors while customers are walking in and out with prescriptions. I walked to the back of the store to pick up my prescription which should have been filled hours before. When I inquired about my order I was told they hadn’t received a prescription for this order. I was baffled as I spoke to my Dr. who had said she would call it in right away. I asked them to check again that it wasn’t possible. I waited a total of 45 minutes before asking them to please page my Dr. for a second time. I later found out that the first call never went through, and my prescription was sitting on their answering machine that they hadn’t listened to in 4 hours. It then took them another 20 minutes, as if at 10:45 at night there would have been a long line waiting to pick up prescriptions. I felt I should have been a priority at that point. I was not only infuriated beyond belief, but so much more anxious than I was at the time I had walked in. I asked them to have someone walk me to my car, and they said “In the night they are short handed and couldn’t help me out!” This is only one of several stories that had happened to me with in a 2 week period. I finally did what I should have done ages ago. I went to the computer, looked up on yelp best pharmacies in Chicago, did some additional research, and realized from other coments that large chain pharmacies are becoming more and more difficult to deal with. I have now been using Aaron’s appothocary on Clark in Chicago, and there are no words to describe the service and lengths they go to, to help their clients. If you are having trouble with your chain pharmacy don’t wait any longer for them to change for the better. That’s not happening. Robin

    Posted May 21, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Slowly, stealthily, Big Brother takes control!

    Ann Raven
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 10:16 am

    I think its terrible that Walgreens treats people like drug addicts because i too have the experience of feeling like I was being judged as a pharmacist at Walgreens once said to me these pill are addicting and bad you should not be taking them. Oh and I do not take that medication anymore but it was helpful for my personal situation at the time and how dare they assume they know what my life is like and or that my Doctor some how does not get what meds they are prescribing.

    Lori San Pietro
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Dr. Edelberg once recommended a wonderful local pharmacy to me because they were likely to have a thyroid medication that, at the time, was difficult to find at the big pharmacy chains. It’s called Braun PharmaCare, and it’s not too far from Wholehealth’s office. Braun seems very much like what I imagine pharmacies were like 50 years ago: local/family owned and operated, with pharmacists and staff that treat customers like neighbors they know and care about. I’ve heard they even have hard to find veterinary medications for your four-legged friends. I live too far away now to regularly patronize Braun, and I miss it.

    Christopher Gagnon
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 10:09 am

    The Walgreen’s in Menifee CA refused to fill a narcotic pain med for my husband stating that we had to have it filled in the county in which the prescription was written. His doctor is in a neighboring county. My husband had waited too long and was in pain after his knee replacement, so we drove to Costco in Lake Elsinore, CA (in same county). The pharmacist filled it but not without making him wait for an hour. The pharmacist refused to bump him to the top of his waiting list. My husband sat in the car in the parking lot for an hour. He was in a lot of pain. Both Walgreens and Costco are on my black list now.

    Posted May 21, 2013 at 9:24 am

    I experienced exactly this just last night at my local Walgreens in Nevada! I am getting doggone tired of being targeted by doctors and now pharmacies for the use of pain medication. I hate that I need it, but I surely do need it. I get further whipped senseless and very unfairly when I already have a chronic and extremely painful condition. This new policy causes great delay, (nearly a week to get the prescription filled,) bottlenecks in communication between doctors and the pharmacy and even further unrest between patients and their doctors when many doctors already do not want to deal with chronic pain patients for exactly some of these reasons! I already experience inadequate treatment and medication. I already experience inadequate support from Insurance companies. Now pharmacies are on the bandwagon too. It is more than a chronic pain body can cope with at times, and it is completely unacceptable! I am now going to find myself a new pharmacy. And I am also going to begin openly protesting all of this, even though I hate sharing my privacy about this subject openly–something has GOT TO GIVE! Chronic Pain patients need to stand up and fight back–if we can garner enough strength with which to fight!

    Barbara Manning
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 9:23 am

    Very disturbing!

    Pamea Shaw
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 8:14 am

    When I was growing up in 1940/1950s Chicago, Walgreen outlets were few and we relied on independent pharmacies. These owner operators were part of our Chicago neighborhood, knew their customers and we trusted them. As I plow through my eighties, I continue to be amazed at how we have allowed something as important as our medical care to become co-opted by the private insurance and other corporate interests.

    Don Schoenbeck
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Yes I know I went there after my visit and it was around 9pm since I live in decatur il, and I was told that they have to verify the prescription with the dr before they could fill it. The reason I was given was that he had never seen a hand written prescription before. Are you kidding me? Needless to say I went to cvs, and the only problem I had was that they could only do a partial refill on my prescriptions.

    Sammantha barrera
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 7:32 am

    Walgreens is now the corner of crappy and stealthy. Thanks for the information.

    Kate Maver
    Posted May 21, 2013 at 5:57 am

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