Pharmacists explain prescription rejections

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:

ATLANTA - After several metro Atlanta surgeons complained to Channel 2 Action News that a growing number of pharmacies are refusing to fill legitimate prescriptions for pain medicine, pharmacists said they are just being cautious.

"I think the problem is a lot bigger than a lot of people realize it is," said an Atlanta pharmacist who requested anonymity.

She said she turns down up to 50 prescriptions each week and is stuck in a nearly impossible situation. She said recent police crackdowns on pill mills and more addicts hoping for an easy score have pharmacists throughout the area taking extra precautions and asking a lot more questions.

The pharmacist said she often refuses to fill prescriptions for powerful narcotic pain medications brought in by patients or written by doctors she doesn't know, but she worries legitimate prescriptions may fall through the cracks.

"That's what keeps me up at night.  I worry that we will turn a patient away that is a legitimate pain patient that will go away that we might could have helped," she told Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant.

To lower the odds of getting turned down, the Georgia Pharmacy Association said legitimate patients seeking pain meds need to be proactive.

"Having a relationship with your pharmacist is as important as having the relationship with your physician," GPA’s Jim Bracewell said.

He also said it’s important for physicians to give pharmacies a head's up that a prescription for narcotics is on the way. Though, Bracewell said he understands why the cautionary measures are being taken.

"If you're going to a pharmacy where it's easy to get a controlled drug prescription, those pharmacies need to be on their toes. They need to be watched," he told Diamant.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, more people die of prescription drug overdoses than overdoses from illicit drugs. Of the 729 drug overdose deaths reported in 2010, 560 involved prescription drugs. That was a 10 percent increase in prescription drug overdoses since the prior year.

Bracewell said the Drug Enforcement Administration tracks the amount of narcotics each pharmacy sells, and if they feel that it's selling too much, it could cut off supply.