Pain Patriots Salute Honest Florida Journalist

FL Pharmacy Crawl ImageMatt Grant of WESH 2 News in Orlando Florida deserves much kudos for telling the painful truth about Floridians left to endure unrelenting chronic pain associated with the much dreadedPharmacy Crawl”.  The shameful thing is that Attorney General, or should I say Politician Pam Bondi is getting just the attention she wants on the very backs of her constituents that are suffering in pain daily, as she successfully used this last year for personal gain while campaigning for re-election.  Some say that she is the worst Attorney General in the countryIn fact, just a few months ago, New York Times reported on Pam Bondi’s plea to Defend Free Trips “to conferences and socialize with lawyers for corporations under investigation by other states”.

Although legitimate American Patriots suffering day in and day out from pain are no doubt in favor of Bondi’s success to squelch Florida “pill mills”, these same sufferers are likely infuriated that such criminals have essentially crippled their own personal integrity and made it impossible to obtain their legitimate and much needed prescription medications, including opioids.

Indeed I have called out many a journalist on various blogs for their sensationalistic journalism, biased reports on the opioid epidemic without considering legitimate patents, and downright ignorance in reports laden with false statements by politicians and ill-informed clinicians.  But you know what?  Journalist Matt Grant deserves our support for telling the truth when people like from NPR, the NY Times, Boston Globe, People Magazine, and LA Times continue to play games with the lives of those who are suffering with little or no consideration for pain-associated suicide and morbidity!

Shameful are the Chain Pharmacies hiding behind their own indiscretions to bolster a case against patients attempting to fill legitimately needed prescriptions.  This behavior is not in sync with the Oath of a Pharmacist which clearly states, “I will consider the welfare of humanity and relief of suffering my primary concerns”.

So on this Post-Super-Bowl Monday where the Patriots prevailed, perhaps we should consider their namesake victory and as American Patriots deserving of better treatment in our own right, embrace Matt Grant’s report with a very big thank you from the patients, their families and caregivers, and the frustrated doctors and pharmacists that follow this blog.

Please write a short note here and tell Mr. Grant that you appreciate his honest reporting.  No doubt that if more journalists comprehensively reported this side of the story in Florida and nationally, and if pharmacists and prescription writers weren’t intimidated by the DEA and state authorities, Ms. Bondi would be forced to listen.

25 thoughts on “Pain Patriots Salute Honest Florida Journalist

  1. Sixteen years ago I was diagnosed with a neurological disorder that has kept me in bed with severe pain most of the time. This disease is well known to have a higher pain score than benign bone cancer. Walgreens always served me with a smile. Some of the pharmacists and I were on a first name basis. Well 6 months ago, these friendly people became someone I didn’t recognized. They were cold as ice and stoic, and without explanation, refused to serve me. The interesting thing is, I called that same Walgreens in the morning to confirm that my meds were ready. The pharmacy tech said she needed to ask the pharmacy manager, who happened to be on duty that morning, and then call me back. She called back about 10 minutes later to tell me that the pharmacist said I could come to pick them up. When I got to the pharmacy that same afternoon, another pharmacist was on duty. She told me that, not only could I have my meds, but that no other Walgreen will serve me in the future. When I asked why, she would only quote that “you no longer meet our guidelines.” excuse. The same guidelines that I met only a few hours ago?! Furthermore, even though she knew I was almost out of my pain meds, she didn’t care that without them I could go into an uncontrolled withdrawal which could kill me. She could have been humane, especially since I was such a long-time customer, and said “I’ll fill it this time only which might give you enough time to find another pharmacist” I then went to CVS, who didn’t know me from Adam, who of course sent me away. Finally my only option left was to use my employers mail in pharmacy, which because of the necessary express shipping and the guidelines for this pharmacy which charges me a double co-pay, cost me over $100 (I used to pay $35 at Walgreens) to have them filled–and I’m on social security. I later called Walgreens to speak with the pharmacy manager who confirmed my meds, and ask what was up? Strangely, she would only parrot the same response as the other pharmacist. She would not offer any explanation for what happened. When I asked her if my doctor changed to an alternative medication, would that reverse their decision. She answered no. I asked her if she would discuss the problem with my doctor. She said stoically “I can’t speak with your doctor.” But their pat statement they offer to the media is “we’re working with health professionals.” They never expressed to me any concern about my medicine. They never even called my doctor to discuss any concerns about my dosages, or to even ask for a copy of my records. So how did they come to the decision that I’m an “abuser?” I have sent my story so many times to Biondi and other Florida politicians, only to be replied to with form responses sent by their secretaries. I asked Biondi if she would send that same form message to someone she cared about who ended up with chronic, relentless pain. I told her that I hoped that would never happen, but if it did, maybe the ice around her heart would begin to melt a little.

  2. This is not only happening in Florida! Thanks to the federal government pressuring the pharmacies & physicians, it’s an ugly mess!

  3. I blogged about this very issue with Walgreens with past week They have fired Pharmacists for refusing to give vaccinations and sell Plan B and yet make statements that they cannot force a Pharmacist to fill a Rx. IMO, this would strongly suggest that Walgreens has two policies.. the one is that their Pharmacists are to sell whatever is in stock to whoever wants to purchase it .. unless a controlled med is involved and then their Good Faith Policy and other “unknown policies” that STRONGLY DISCOURAGES their Pharmacist from filling controls… Since most controlled meds are prescribed for those with subjective diseases.. which are covered by the Americans with Disability Act… Walgreens has intentionally or unintentionally set up policies that discriminates against those pts. Violations under the ADA are considered a civil rights violation much the same as under The Civil Rights Act of 1964

  4. I have had it up to here with these ridiculous accusations of retail pharmacies denying prescriptions without just cause. Hey Jeff, what is the first principal of pain mgmt? Oh, you don’t treat chronic pain with short acting opiod monotherapy? 99% of denials stem from flat out embarrassing prescribing habits from providers. They won’t do simple PA paperwork to justify a long acting opioid and just take the easy way out and make it rain 4-8 short acting narcotics daily. You think people in the business of selling valid prescriptions really want to deny filling anything? Open your eyes people, it is atrocious prescribing habits rather than a pharmacist’s clinical judgement that leads to denial. The 56 phone calls a day we get asking if their IR narcotic is ready 3 days early everysingle is a direct result of peaks and troughs- the creation of addicts. The proof is truly in the pudding.

    1. Okay, it appears that you have conceded that retail pharmacies are indeed denying prescriptions. However, you contend that they have just cause to do so.

      Exhibit 1: You don’t treat chronic pain with short acting opioid monotherapy? I can think of at least two reasons that some beleaguered providers and patients might have opted for short-acting, at least. One is cost. I’m guessing that most, or all, extended-release, abuse-deterrent formulations are still on patent, and more expensive than short-acting medications by 1-3 orders of magnitude (More on this later.) The second is that, until recently, the only Schedule III opioid available was hydrocodone/APAP (aside from codeine formulations – which for 7-10% of the Caucasian population don’t work, I have been told. Their liver can’t demethylate the codeine to morphine? Sorry that I don’t have statistics on other ethnicities. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.) Oh, and monotherapy? I was put on multiple drug therapy once – no “highly addictive” controlled substances though! Tramadol (now Schedule IV), Gabapentin, Lopressor (for tachycardia), Prozac, and Amrix. I had been stable on generic Vicodin for 5 months. Those five drugs did not help with the pain, but they did cause me to fall asleep at inopportune times. So, I’m not particularly enamoured of adjuvant analgesics. Forgive me!

      Do I think people in the business of selling “valid” prescriptions really want to deny filling anything? For the most part? No, I don’t think so – though I can imagine some doing so with self-righteous relish! Particularly when denying the prescription costs them little or nothing financially. But that brings me back to my point about some medications being much more expensive than others. I can recall being given that 30-day prescription for Amrix back in August 2010. It cost my employer and I over $300 to fill. It was every bit as useful as generic cyclobenzaprine (which is to say, it might as well have been a sugar pill with a label stating “Dixie Crystals sugar pills.” It was, as far as I could tell, useless.) However, to your point – I can easily imagine you, if you are a pharmacist, having no problem declining to fill a prescription for hydrocodone/APAP that only adds $20 in revenue to your business (less expenses). You would much rather fill a prescription for Zohydro or Hyslingla ER, would you not?

      As for “making it rain” 4-8 short acting narcotics(?) daily? Dr. Fudin has covered this in other blog posts, but it bears repeating (from the flip side) that a 50mg capsule of Zohydro is no less potent than a torrential “rainstorm” of 10 tablets of hydrocodone/APAP 5mg/325mg. I looked up the cost though, and the best I can find on the internet is that 240 hydrocodone/APAP 5mg/325mg can be had for less than $30, while 60 capsules of Zohydro 20mg cost over $400.

      And do you have proof that the 56 people who call on any given day to ask if their IR narcotic(?) is ready (3 days early) are really addicts? I don’t know you, but that sounds awful arrogant to me as I read it. How many unique, individual patients does your pharmacy fill prescriptions for on a regular basis? Perhaps some or many of those 56 patients a day are the patients for whom popping over to the pharmacy to refill their prescription on the last day involves more than just “popping over to the pharmacy.” Maybe they have to arrange transportation. Maybe they have to arrange money for the co-pay (or full cost). Maybe they’ll be indisposed 3 days later. Maybe they’re exhibited signs of the dreaded “pseudoaddiction?” Perhaps they just want to find out if you’re going to deny their prescription because they are now “addicts” with providers who exhibit “embarrassing” and “atrocious” prescribing “habits”? I don’t know. You’re the one working there, and surely you see people who set off all kinds of red flags for you. But check this dermatology professor guy out though and hear what he has to say about what he “knew” to be true, what he himself “taught” his students for years, and what the most brilliant dermatology professors at Duke and Chapel Hill (“geniuses!,” he says) taught him for years before that (hint – they were “completely” and “utterly” wrong!).

      I’m sorry if pharmacists are so frightened or intimidated by numbers that they can’t bear to put 120 or 240 tablets into a bottle for a one month prescription. That being said, I’m not a pharmacist – not even a clinician – and I may be mistaken on some points. I don’t doubt that if we lived in a perfect world everyone with CNCP would receive the best of comprehensive, multi-modal (or whatever I should call it) care, irrespective of cost. But we don’t live in a perfect world. In some countries people have little or no access to even short-acting medications and would be lucky to have them newly available. Please don’t paint all your patients and their clinicians with such a broad brush. Thank you.


  5. Emily thank you again for a good reply and link to Matt Grants news report. This particular news report by Matt needs to be seen by other reporters in every city of America so they can do a similar report to put a end to this crisis, its almost like genocide on the already sick and suffering. Our own government putting fear in to pharmacist and doctors that care for the suffering , end result is much needed medications are being help back from people that need it the most. Final result for some is we our self end our own life because we can no longer take the pain of every day suffering. This lady with end stage lung cancer being denied medication to ease her pain is sickening to see.

    Closing down pill mill pharmacies and doctors is one thing and that’s been done but this is a entire different situation and it needs to be addressed by the DEA, DOJ, or whoever can put a stop to it. Legitimate chronic pain sufferers and end stage cancer patients should not have to go without much needed medications to ease their suffering. Thousands and thousands of medications to ease pain or just sitting on pharmacy shelves or at warehouse distributors going out of date being unused.

    There comes a time in life when we the people truly suffering need to step up and speak, we must have our voices heard and not cower in fear of reprisal , this is the only way to end this travesty.
    If we don’t things will get worse and we will be blamed like somehow we are the ones doing wrong.

    I’ve seen in the past one persons voice and actions can change things for a entire group of people.
    There is no reason or justification for this needless suffering of innocent people in America ,we must end this injustice before it ends us.

    Today I will find a way to forward this link Emily posted to T.V. reporters here in Houston, TX.
    I would suggest other people do the same so we can put a end to this out of control cruelty.

  6. First, thank you again, Dr. Fudin, for keeping us abreast of this epidemic, and thank you Mr. Grant for your bravery. It is rare to see a journalist going against the grain of modern media. Instead of perpetuating the cliched stereotype of pain patients as “druggies,” thank you for finally telling the story of the 98% of pain patients who are legitimate and suffering. Where do I begin with the myriad list of ethical and societal wrongs in this situation? I think I’ll start with the fact that certain zip codes (zip codes which inevitably belong to lower-middle-class citizens, who are not only the ones most-often targeted as drug abusers and diverters, but also the people who are more likely to have poor health and need pain medicines) are being pre-labeled as “not to be sold to.” This is blatant discrimination. Next, since when are DEA and corporations more knowledgeable about a patient’s needs than a doctor? If a doctor has prescribed something, and a pharmacist refuses to fill it for any reason other than a bona fide concern (therapeutic issues related to pharmacodynamics, therapeutics, drug-drug or drug-disease interactions, potential long-term drug toxicity such as ketorolac beyond 5 days or tardive dyskinesia from long-term metoclopramide use, allergies, etc.) it could be construed as violation to the Americans With Disabilities Act. Here are just two of the countless inhumane, unethical, and unconstitutional acts that are being boldly carried out against law abiding citizens, without a single repercussion. In fact, the companies and government agencies are being applauded by the general public, who are so brainwashed, that they truly believe this is prudent behavior. It is time that more media outlets follow Mr. Grant’s lead, and expose this criminal behavior on the part of corporate America and the government. Enough is enough. It is time we start defending the sickest and weakest of our society, instead of bullying them.

    1. Emily that was nicely written and your correct I could name several violations that are happening to chronic pain sufferers of America but it would take too long and I cant type for that amount of time. The ADA is just one of them, we could go on saying this is abuse of the elderly and people too sick to defend themselves or too scared to speak out. Instead they sit and suffer and cant keep their home clean and basic hygiene. This is a utter disregard for the sick and suffering, if the general public only knew the real truths of what’s happening to those that truly suffer in chronic pain. Its time we expose what’s really happening to innocent people in chronic pain who cant defend or care for themselves.


  7. I appreciate the ones that are willing to fight for the elderly,disabled and those with chronic painful diseases. You would think politicians would want to protect this class of people. This sudden and useless attempts to limit narcotics is only hurting patients. Doctors and pharmacies are rightfully scared to dose patients adequately and pharmacies are scared to fill prescriptions in all states because of the fear of being next on the hit list of the DEA. Ken Mckin has it correctly with his clip on the loss of compassion for the chronic ill. Thank you for the help bringing this to the public’s attention.
    Wishing that there was a prize we could give besides our gratitude.

  8. In order to achieve enlightenment and happiness in life certain truths must be accepted, first and foremost human suffering is unavoidable , second truth to understand is suffering is caused by craving and human kind desires relief in ways that ultimately does not satisfy the soul ,the third truth is inner peace is possible but human kind suffering wont end until we learn how to stop our desires.

  9. Thank you Matt Grant for shedding light on the never ending battle of Florida pain patients. I can only hope that a change come’s soon. Thank you Dr. Fudin for sharing this story. I hope that other reporter’s in the state of Fla will do as Mr.Grant has done and shed light on this never ending battle.

  10. Dr. Fudin,

    Thanks for letting us know about this man, Matt Grant of WESH 2 News in Orlando Florida, a rarity in the news business indeed. Applause for this man and the very few others who have taken it upon themselves to tell the truth , not the sensationalized version, but the REAL, unvarnished, not “just to sell the story” TRUTH.

    We can’t thank you enough, Mr. Grant for your honesty, something chronic pain patients all too seldom see from the media, when reporting on the pharmacy crawl that wreaks havoc on pain patients in Florida everyday, or any other subject related to opioids and controlled substances. Please continue to report the facts so that we, chronic pain patients, are not damaged by outrageous statistics, non-substantiated criteria, and fiery, but unreal stories of overdoses, careless doctors and patients that are the cause of everything that’s wrong with America.

    Thank you.

  11. I felt sorry for the lady in this film suffering in chronic pain and saw she needing her medications filled, frustrated at the world around her. This past summer I went thru a similar thing and could not get my on time, legit, medically necessary script filled for my chronic pain of 28 years. So I thought I would titrate down to the lowest dose possible and I still have some type of control over my chronic pain. It was a horrible 3 months but I did manage to drop from 150 mgs a day to 60 mgs a day on a certain long acting medication for my chronic pain. This did help me a lot because now the pharmacy I use is not afraid to fill 180 / 10 mg tablets a month compared to 450 a month. But the problem is as I get older the chronic pain is getting worse. So I try my best to keep busy and not think of the chronic pain but people in severe chronic pain cant do without their much needed medications for ongoing pain. That would be cruel and unusual punishment not just because of the ongoing chronic pain but the feeling of horrible withdrawal. I did my titration slow over a 3 month period dropping off 5 mgs every 7 days. It was pure hell but somehow I made it by okay.But to take away a persons medication for chronic pain because the pharmacist is not for sure if they want to fill it or not is pure evil and cruel torture.

    What I did is bring my most recent MRI radiology report to my pharmacist to show her I truly suffered from severe chronic pain. She said she didn’t need it but I wanted to show her proof of my pain.
    I don’t know why chronic pain sufferers are not allowed to do this if there is any question in the mind of the pharmacist,,, this seems to be the best method for proof of chronic pain if there is any discrepancy as to should they FILL the script or NOT. Its not that hard to figure out folks, we need a way to prove our chronic pain is real and not have the pharmacist have to think should I or shouldn’t I fill this script.
    Each pharmacist know how much to fill for you each month and how much will be needed the following month , so no excuses as to we don’t have this medication in stock.

    I want to thank Matt Grant for his caring and much needed reporting on this problem about innocent chronic pain sufferers being treated like we don’t matter. Also I want to thank Dr. Fudin for giving us that suffer from chronic pain a place to meet and have our stories and voices heard. Plus a place for our caring compassionate doctors that are able to reach out and help us have their stories told.

    Not one person in chronic pain should have to suffer not knowing which way to turn. This is a true travesty and we must resolve this issue as soon as possible, not next year, but this year, no more excuses or wasted time to resolve this matter , whatever it takes we must get it done.

    1. Its so sad that we feel like we have to prove we are in pain. No one should have to suffer like you are. If we were animals people would be ready to stone the pharmacist for denying pain meds to a dog or cat. But will let us human beings suffer on a daily basis. Its just sad.

  12. I have sent many emails to WESH begging for them to do a story on the hundreds of thousands of pain patients who are suffering needlessly, being treated as junkies and addicts by pharmacists and who are suffering cruel and unusual punishment by the laws that have crippled many of us and many others who have taken their lives because of these laws. Also, the blatant lies we are being told by pharmacists who are supposed to uphold their oath to relieve people’s suffering.

    I had my fourth spine surgery (9 hrs) in Chicago this summer and 3 weeks later returned home only to be denied all medications my surgeon prescribed for post-op pain. Many of these meds I had been receiving prior to to the surgery by Walgreens. Without notice they refused to fill my meds and I went through horrible withdrawals while still healing from my surgery. I am a single mom with no family here and I was unable to care for my son because of this. It is a well known fact by all in the medical field as well as pharmacists that suddenly stopping these types of meds can have deadly consiquences. Also, doing the pharmacy crawl for hours when you have a 12″ incision is cruel in itself.

    4 weeks after surgery I fell down a flight of stairs and had to go to the hospital via ambulance. I was in so much pain that I was shaking, crying and my blood pressure skyrocketed from the pain. They refused to give me any pain meds even knowing I had just had a 9 hr spine surgery. When they released me I told the nurse I was so dizzy I was unable to walk and still in excruciating pain. The nurse said “then I better get you a wheelchair so we don’t get sued”. That was their concern..not my pain or dizziness but being sued.

    I have been unable to care for myself or my son since then. I am in so much pain that some days I wish I wouldn’t wake up. How is it legal in this country to deny a legitimate pain patient, with a legitimate condition, legal FDA approved medication?? Until this madness stops many more pain patients will commit suicide.

  13. Yes, we were all thrilled to hear the correct information come from a caring pharmacist, and an article written by a truthful journalist here in Florida. FINALLY!
    The struggles that nearly every single pain patient in this state has encountered at some point during the past 4 years has been the most mind boggling, inhumane act by far that I have seen my life. How can this problem be Constitutional and allowed to get this far? I hope that more pain professionals and patients will continue to speak out publicly about this travesty and not stop until it’s corrected.
    I continue to hear from many legitimate pain patients across the nation about pain medication denials happening in their states now. This is now reaching far past the state lines of Florida, as I had feared. The issue is growing and spreading to many states. There needs to be a coalition of advocates, joined organizations and groups nationwide, together speaking louder than ever before to get a hold on this situation.
    It has gone extremely way too far the wrong direction. This problem needs to end before disaster happens in epic proportions, far worse than any pill mill epidemic in Florida . Many thanks to Matt Grant for unfolding the true story of what is happening to legitimate pain patients in Florida. Thanks for writing about this story in your blog Dr. Fudin. 🙂 Things are getting very scary for innocent people in the USA.

  14. I’m trying to get my comment onto the news site, but haven’t been able to yet. I’ll post it here, so that I can come back to it later.

    Thank you, Matt Grant, for standing up for chronic pain patients, although I’m not quite sure that, “unexpected side effect” was the correct choice of words.

    Legitimate patients predicted this from the very beginning, and stories have abounded from patients begging for help in the last several years from all over the country. I no longer live in Florida, but when I did, I was featured in Part 2 of Radley Balko’s series on prescription pain medications, entitled, “The New Panic Over Prescription Painkillers”

    He misunderstood the number of surgeries I had, and listed it as three. That was incorrect. I had three surgeries just in 2011 alone. At the time I spoke with him on the phone and told him my story, I’d had a total of 10 surgeries for my kidneys, and another 4 or 5 surgeries or procedures for female issues in the past. After a while, you start to lose track.

    At that time, I wasn’t able to find any doctors that were willing to write prescriptions to keep me out of the ER. Once I did, I was unable to find a pharmacy to fill it. Ironically, I was using Walgreens at the time. They aren’t the only pharmacy to do this though, from what I’ve heard from hundreds of other patients.

    I still keep up with stories from Florida, as well as from other parts of the country. This blame game that keeps going on between the DEA and the pharmacies is very interesting, not to mention very frustrating for patients. They obviously know there is a problem, and I think that is exactly what was intended from the very beginning. Neither wants to take credit for it because of the public outcry. It would be awesome to see more in depth reporting of that. They are wrecking lives, and it’s eventually going to lead to a number of deaths. There is only so much pain the human body can take before it gives out completely. That is newsworthy, in my opinion. Again, thank you!

    Mary Maston
    MSK Advocate

  15. Thanks, Dr. Fudin, for your eloquent support of Matt Grant’s expose, and for bringing it to our attention. Thank you, Matt, for telling it like it is. We chronic pain patients are fed up with politicians and their ignorance, who believe that they know more about us than our doctors do. Worse, they not only interfere with our treatment, but they allow the DEA to harass and falsely arrest our doctors, making sure that we have no recourse than to either hit the streets for drugs, or commit suicide. Then they wonder how the door got left open to allow the drug cartels to just walk in and prey on our children. You are both brave men to expose this political/criminal disregard for the first premise of American Government: To protect and defend. Not to cause more harm and crime.

  16. Thank You I am glad to see someone other then Dr Fudin stand up and tell it like it really is. We suffer while others care only about their careers.Thank You Again Terry

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