If you are reading this, it is very likely that you have fallen victim to the infuriating dilemma of not being able to fill your duly authorized Hydrocodone prescription. I too have observed the "we're all out" stonewalling so common at numerous Walgreens throughout the country. Indeed, I witnessed multiple occasions over the last month during random observational visits to investigate this matter, where customers with valid scripts for Hydrocodone were turned away rather curtly by Walgreens pharmacy staff. How do I know the scripts were for Hydrocodone? Because I asked the customer in the parking lot, explaining that I was investigating the seemingly impossible task of getting a script for this commonly prescribed pain medication filled on a timely basis.
Before I continue, I should make it clear that it is all too obvious, that the rank and file employees at Walgreens have become toughened by the company's insipid policies that make it virtually impossible for them to offer the kind of customer service that we have every right to expect. Indeed, the responses from staff ranged from contrite and apologetic (mostly when talking to the aged), to curt and rude. What I found extremely disturbing however, was an obvious pattern of treating poor and minority customers with attitudes that can only be described as ranging from condescending, to downright rude. If you are a poor non-white minority individual in need of prescription pain medication, not only will Wallgreens staff treat you badly, but they will often seem to take cruel pleasure in turning you away while simultaneously making you feel like a common criminal. Yes, sometimes they even laugh at you behind your back. Because many of these individuals lack the understanding of their rights, most seem to contritely accept even the worst treatment.
On the other hand, I obsrved a professionaly dressed (suit and tie) white male, who simply refused to be put off. He correctly stated that his prescription was valid, that he had been taking this medication for many months, and that he had dealt with this Walgreens exclusively. He was very insistent that the pharmacy assist him in obtaining the medication by either having it couriered from another location, or at least contacting other branches in order to locate one that had it. He was quite determined, and intimated that he had placed this order several days prior, and had had quite enough of their excuses. He also made it clear that he had no intention of suffering withdrawal symptoms, and he then produced the Walgreens paperwork indicating the symptoms he could expect were his pain medication abruptly discontinued. This seemed to be the turning point in the interaction. Clearly this customer was not going to accept the curt "we are out and have no idea when we will have it in stock" answer. Instead he rightly placed the responsibility on Walgreens. Once it was clear this man wasn't leaving without satisfaction, the staffer agreed to call around to find a store that had his medication. Eventually, they did find one and the man left, presumably, to obtain his pain medicine. (Note, I did not interview him because HE indicated revealed that it was Hydrocodone.)
What is clear from this observation, is that Walgreens pharmacies operate on a unwritten policy of "white, well-dressed, squeaky wheel gets the grease" This is disturbing on so many levels, I'm not sure what else to say.
Clearly the new regulations regarding Hydrocodone are creating massive problems for people who should never have to face them. These are people operating in good faith, who have the misfortune of requiring strong pain relief medication. That there are many, many people in need of this medication is not at all surprising. The U.S. population is aging, and many are still finding it necessary to work well into, what would ideally be, their retirement years. Hydrocodone, for all of its vilification by the DEA and certain politicians, is keeping many of its users as hard working tax paying members of society. At the same time, less than 1% of patients on pain medication are getting into serious trouble with the drugs. The automobile industry, in contrast, could only dream of such a record for safety with their products.
I've chosen to single out Walgreens, because they are the largest pharmacy in America. They claim to offer kind, knowledgable, and compassionate service. And to be fair, I saw many examples of this during my investigation. However, once again, we are seeing people whose needs fall outside what I will call "the easy to satisfy norm, " who are being made to feel like they are simply too much trouble to help. The DEA and the burdensome new regulations placed on Hydrocodone are almost totally to blame. However, Walgreens staff also seems to consistently show indifference, or to even take pleasure in withholding service from poor and minority customers who have just as real a need for pain relief, as the well dressed professional white men. That is simply unacceptable.