Tips to avoid roadblocks to medication for pain patients

In a day and age where opioid abuse and overdose deaths are at epidemic levels, new measures must be taken by providers to prevent these issues.

Pharmacists and doctors are creating steps to better understand patients and adequately explain how to avoid roadblocks in your access to medication. During the 2017 Nevada Legislative Session, Nevada made arrangements to receive $5.6 million from the federal government to combat opioid addiction in the state, which is part of 21st Century Cures Act passed by congress.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) publishes a handbook for prescribers and pharmacists to follow while working within the medication world.

As always, pharmacists do not condone or support the abuse of opioids, and if you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, please contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at The SAMHSA website has a treatment center locator, as well as many tips and advice for those struggling with addiction.

In an effort to better serve patients who are in desperate need of pain medication, here are some of those red flags prescribers and pharmacists look for that you, as a patient, can avoid to legitimately receive the care you need.

Patient pays cash or uses a discount card for prescriptions.

When a patient states he or she has no insurance, yet pays over $200 in cash for pain prescriptions each month, it may be an indicator he or she is trying to prevent a paper trail.

Patient has driven a long distance to a pharmacy or to see a doctor.

If a pharmacist sees that the patient travels to a doctor and pharmacist who are far from each other, when closer options are available, it could be a red flag.

The patient receives Controlled Substances (CS) scripts from more than one prescriber.

If a person is receiving one pain medication for a back injury, and then has dental work done and receives a second pain medication for that procedure, it could be unnecessary. Pain medication for the back can easily help with any tooth pain.

The patient appears to be returning too frequently.

For example, a prescription that should have lasted for a month in legitimate use is being requested for filling on a biweekly, weekly, or even a daily basis. Do your best to use all medication only as it is prescribed.

Patient requests a specific brand, shape, color or size of a product.

Although there are situations where patients may not be able to tolerate specific fillers in medications, if you ask for specific manufacturers or colors of controlled substances, it will draw scrutiny.

Prescribers write CS prescriptions outside the usual course of their specialty’s practice.

As convenient as it may seem to have your neighbor, who may be a cardiologist, write prescriptions for your pain diagnosis, don’t do it. Go through the proper channels for your prescriptions; it is a safer approach to treatment for your condition.

Family members all receive the same CS prescriptions.

When a pharmacist sees a situation like this, it is cause for concern because all of the medication may be going toward one person’s dependence, or it is part of a pill mill operation.

Apart from the tips above, the No. 1 way to ensure you receive the legitimate pain medication you need is to have a good relationship with your doctor and pharmacist. Be sure to communicate and ask questions.

Daniel W. Heller, Pharm. D., is a Patient Care Coordinator for Smith’s Food & Drug Stores, with several locations throughout Northern Nevada. Visit to learn more.


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