Self Advocacy And Bad Pharmacies

Years ago, I was a pharmacy technician.  I’m sure things have changed and are done a bit differently from pharmacy to pharmacy, but I have a general idea of how filling a prescription works.  The pharmacy I worked at was in a different state than where I live now, which can also change a few procedures due to different laws and regulations.

Despite knowing that things aren’t necessarily exactly how they were when I was working in a pharmacy, I still am unable to comprehend how difficult getting my prescription filled seems to be in my current location.

I have been to many pharmacies in the last few years trying to find one that would work best for me.  There have always been issues. In two of the pharmacies, the pharmacist acted very judgmental towards me based solely on what the prescriptions I was filling.  One all but called me a drug seeker even though none of my medications are ones that a drug seeker would be interested in. You can’t get high from Sertraline or Lithium.

The pharmacy I am left with after using four* others in the area was great at first.  But then a local pharmacy closed and all of their clientele was sent to my pharmacy. It has been chaos ever since.

To get my prescriptions renewed is quite possibly the hardest thing I could ask of this pharmacy.  I have gotten to the point that I request the refill with the pharmacy and then immediately call my doctor’s office and tell them that “I requested a refill but…” they then all but say with me, “they can’t seem to figure out how to get in touch.”  My doctor’s office will then call the pharmacy and leave the prescription orders on the pharmacist voicemail.

Then something like this almost always occurs.  I’ll wait all day for the text that my prescription is ready, but it never comes the first day, that would be far too easy.  Day two I check my online profile to see if the prescription is in process, and it isn’t. I’ll call the pharmacy, where I will wait for up to 10 minutes on hold just to be told that the doctor hasn’t been in touch – they then hang up before I can say anything.

Next I call my doctor’s office where they tell me the exact time they left the message and tell tell me to have the pharmacist check their voicemail again with the time known.  If they don’t have it I am to tell the pharmacist to call them. So back on hold I go. 

This sort of tag can go on for another day or two; my doctor’s office leaves a message, the pharmacist doesn’t have it.  The pharmacy sends another refill request, but it doesn’t make it to the doctor because as I have told the pharmacy every time I talk to them, my doctor doesn’t have electronic records so it has to go through a normal fax.

I’m to the point that I truly believe that if I brought my doctor with me to the pharmacy and had him write the script in front of the pharmacy staff, I could then come to the window right after him and say that I would like that prescription filled,  please. They would then throw the prescription behind their back and ask me, “what prescription? We’ll reach out to the doctor.”

There have been several times now that I have in frustration almost decided to just stop taking all of my medication because dealing with pharmacies is driving me mad enough as is.  Usually, luckily, this is at the end of the volleyball game from hell and I get a text that my meds are ready.

I keep trying to figure out if its me, all of the pharmacies around here, pharmacies as a whole, or some sort of combination.  My current pharmacy has a very kind manager, so I almost don’t want to try the last pharmacy in a reasonable distance even with all of these frustrations.  I once asked this pharmacist about taking Ibuprofen with Lithium and she told me her sister takes Lithium and then explained what happens when the two are combined, and finally told me that every once in a while it’s okay.  It feels like if I asked any other pharmacist I have ever met (including all the ones I worked with), they would not have been as thorough and would not have shared a personal detail which helped me relax. Knowing that the same stigma I have experienced before was not going to happen with this pharmacist is the only reason I am still there.

In treatment for everything that requires a doctor and prescriptions, there are a lot of people in the “team” that is required to help the patient stay med compliant.  Though it is ultimately the patient’s responsibility to work at staying well, whether it’s diabetes or bipolar disorder, the harder any member of this team makes it, the less likely the patient is to stay compliant.

For my treatment I see a psychiatrist, a lab for blood work, a therapist, and a pharmacy. The only part of this team that frequently is ineffective at providing their role is the pharmacy.

So many people (and companies) help with getting proper treatment, and when one part of it isn’t working right, we need to recognize that, know that it is not our fault, and come up with a plan.  Me, I’m going to try the last pharmacy in the area and hope it works better than the others; if they don’t work out I’ll just have to choose the best of the worst.

*Issues with these four pharmacies were: 1) pharmacist assumed I was a drug seeker when none of my meds abused 2) pharmacist broke HIPAA rules while “joking” with my husband about the frequency in which I went there 3) pharmacy never had my medications in stock 4) pharmacy took days to fill even on RX


  1. That’s too bad!
    I live in Saskatchewan, Canada. My doctor, and probably all doctors here, do not write out prescriptions they do them digitally to the pharmacy.
    All the pharmacies are wired together. You cannot try to fill a prescription by going to several pharmacies.
    Maybe, that is something that needs to be done where you live.
    It sounds frustrating the way you have to do things just to get the medications you need.


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