Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Diary: Is My Pharmacist Committed?

DIARY: Some chemists are notorious for the treatment of methadone patients. And I have had my share of run ins with arrogant pharmacists who feel methadone patients are somehow less important than other customers. But the switch to another medication meant I was a normal customer again, away from the stigma of being just another junkie on methadone. Well, I was wrong...

I am guessing most methadone patients have had the frustrating experience of waiting in line for service only to be overlooked when a regular customer comes to the counter. I am also guessing that many methadone patients have found themselves at odds with the pharmacist on at least one occasion. If you happen to pick the wrong chemist, it can cause methadone patients much, unneeded grief which often erupts into an outburst of frustration and anger. The chemist gladly informs their 2nd rate customer that they are off the program. The ex customer has to then find another chemist, which is usually for the best in the long run.

That all changed for me when I switched to SROM ... well I thought it did. Not having to go to the special counter for methadone patients was a big bonus and I was treated as regular customer who was just receiving a normal prescription. So I thought at first.

My script is presented monthly and I pick up weekly. I had some extra medication at the start so I could come in a few days late if I was unable to get to the chemist on time. I usually pick up Thursday evenings for the following week but sometimes I would leave it until Friday or Saturday and I would just receive a week’s worth of medication. One day that all changed with a different pharmacist. The pharmacist decided that my weekly pick up started on the day I came in and since I was one day late, I would be short a day. She explained the script said “pickup dose every 7 days”. She knew it was a technicality and since my doctor was on holidays, she couldn’t ring him. I finally sorted it out with the owner and I agreed to come in every Thursday to keep it simple. My doctor also changed my script to say “weekly pickup” so I could come in any day within the week.

I stuck to the Thursday agreement but this week I was at a funeral and I forgot to pick up my dose. I came in the next morning as soon as the chemist opened but agian was told that my week now started on Friday instead of Thursday. I was furious and stormed out. I came back to point out the new script but the pharmacist just casually flopped over to the counter sucking on a lollipop and slapped the prescription down without saying a word. I showed her the new wording but she didn’t even respond. I was a customer for fuck’s sake but a junkie is a junkie and I wasn’t worthy of customer status.

I rang the owner but he couldn’t get his head around the days. He said that if i got my medication on Friday, next Thursday would only be 6 days. I said that shouldn’t matter as we had been through this before all I wanted was to pick up my meds on Thursdays like usual. He got mixed up with days and numbers and kept repeating the same illogical outcomes even though he agreed he was wrong only 30 seconds before. His final solution was come in on Thursday as normal and he will just give me 6 days worth to get it back in line. WTF? One mixed up chemist!

It was so simple. I have a one day buffer which means I have my last dose Thursday morning, pickup my script that night and start the next morning, Friday. I have the buffer because I take my dose before 7am so it kicks in by 9am otherwise I am in massive pain and start withdrawal. If I have to wait until the chemist opens at 9am, I am not getting my meds working until 11am-12pm.

I asked them to ring my doctor but somehow this was not an option anymore. Can you picture an insulin patient having to miss a day because they came in a day late? What about someone on medication for a heart attack? A day early is different but this is after the due date. Originally they stated that the script specifically said that medication was every 7 days but when I purposely had the script changed to clear this problem up it wasn’t the issue anymore. They conveniently changed their mind that this was the reason.

Funny enough, I used to come in late one or two days for the first few months and nothing was even mentioned, until I got the pharmacist from hell. Why was I treated with suspicion but they still wouldn’t ring my doctor? I was doing fine coming in every Thursday but one day I come in Friday morning and my medication gets pushed back a day. The pharmacist treated me like shit and this just would not happen with other customers.

I approached another chemist near by and they said they would be happy to treat me as a customer regardless of when I came in. As long as my script said “weekly pickup” and I didn’t come in earlier than the due day, it was up to me when I picked up my medication. I asked them to ring my doctor to make sure but they said it wasn’t necessary because they understood the logic of “weekly pickup”. I wonder what a customer of 10 years has to do to get treated like I was. It all came down to one junior pharmacist and the owner who couldn’t do the maths in his head. One phone call to my doctor would have cleared it all up.

Just as I was getting my life together, I get let down by my doctors and then the chemist. I have enough problems to deal with! It seems that addiction warrants others to put you through extra misery without consideration for being a person with needs and feelings. There are very few positive experiences being an addict with depression and it is extremely upsetting when your only relief, your medication is unnecessarily interfered with. It is easy to become cynical when it happens regularly whilst having the public consider you less than human as well.

Many methadone patients (including myself) have become loud and angry when obvious discrimination occurs and usually it results in punitive action which only inflames the patient even more. I’ve seen it dozens of times at pharmacies especially certain ones that seem to thrive on acting superior to the patient. No one can really understand until they have been through it and I don’t wish it on anyone. I have never heard one single methadone patient ever ask for anything more than being treated the same as everyone else. Is that too much to ask? ... and people wonder why there are relapses.

For more horror stories, visit A.T. Watchdog. If you think we have it bad in Australia, try the US.


Jack Dorf said...

I'd say the pharmacist you dealt with is just a prejudiced jenkum sucker. If you can change chemists, do it.

Anonymous said...

That's shithouse, Terry. Sorry to hear that arsehole is needlessly making a difficult situation even tougher.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Fellas.
After I told him that I am going to another chemist who has no problem with doing it the way I want, he rang my doctor without my permission. Now my doctor is concerned that I am becoming unstable by fighting with the pharmacist. WTF!

EC said...

Sorry you had to deal with such a twit Terry.

I've had pharmacy staff act all superior when getting diazepam prescriptions filled! I take a small prescribed amount to offset the jitters that the SSRIs cause.