Rude Headaches, Ruder Pharmacists- 6 Ways to Avoid Conflict

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Patient Satisfaction without the Pain- Pharmacists and chronic pain patients don’t always see eye to eye.  Here are tips for getting customer satisfaction on your migraine pain treatment refills.


Is this déjà vu to you, too?

If you suffer from chronic pain, such as migraine headaches, muscular stiffness, or arthritis, then you might recognize this scenario:

A customer walks into a Walgreen’s pharmacy, stands in line, and then comes up to the register.  She inquires about her Darvocet prescription, which she takes for migraine headaches.  She mentions that she ordered her refill online, and believes that her medication should be ready for pick-up.

Imagine her surprise, and shock, when instead of retrieving her order, the pharmacist leans over menacingly, points at her, and shouts at the top of his voice, “What?  You shouldn’t be out, yet!  You need to quit gobbling those things up.  If you’re still in pain, then ask your doctor to prescribe something else.”

35 Things you should never tell a Chronic Migraine Sufferer



It’s not just you.

According to a report, published by the National Institutes of Health, many pharmacists exhibit an astonishing lack of regard and knowledge for basic migraine management guidelines, despite their intensive educational background.

  • More than half of the 171 pharmacists surveyed believe that migraine patients should take over-the-counter painkillers, such as Advil or Tylenol, before submitting to prescription migraine medications.
  • Only half ever inquire about migraine-related conditions, such as nausea or vomiting.
  • About one-third believe that migraine-specific medications should be a last resort when all other drug treatments have failed.
  • Two-thirds do not believe that migraine is a neurological illness.

You have options.



1- Switch pharmacies.

If you currently support a large chain-store pharmacy, such as Wal-Mart, Walgreens, or CVS, then visit a small local pharmacy, instead.  Experiences among patients vary, but overwhelmingly, chronic pain sufferers who give their business to “mom and pop” pharmacists report getting more customer satisfaction.

2- Communicate.

Be open, and explain to your pharmacist about your chronic migraines, disabilities, symptoms, comorbidities, and pain medication preferences.  Choose a pharmacist who is experienced, compassionate, and open to fostering a customer-pharmacist relationship.

3- Don’t shop around.

Once you find a pharmacy that meets your needs, stick with them.  Pharmacists receive training to sniff out “drug seekers,” addicts or street dealers who fill out prescriptions for narcotics frequently and at random pharmacies, in order to avoid being recognized.  Sadly, each time you switch pharmacies, you run the risk of falling under the radar, despite your best attempts to explain your case.  The best way to avoid an unpleasant scenario is to pick up your medications from the same pharmacy.  Before you go on vacation, notify your doctor and pharmacist, and check to make sure that you have enough meds to get by.  For more advice on traveling with migraines, read Plan a Headache-Free Summer Vacation: Five Travel Tips.

4- Notify management.

If you feel you’ve received unfair or offensive treatment from a pharmacist, then discreetly complain to the higher-ups.  It’s not “ratting out” when you report to superiors, but rather ensuring that other customers don’t receive similar abuse in the future.  First, take a deep breath, and regain your composure.  It won’t do to approach management in a fit of tears- they won’t take you seriously, and your grievances will likely fall on deaf ears.  Unfortunately, pharmacists have a high turnover rate, particularly the ones who work in large corporation pharmacies.  Don’t be surprised when you see the same pharmacist, the one who treated you rudely, back behind the counter the next day.

5- Develop a thick skin.

This is tough advice, but a necessary coping mechanism for all chronic pain patients, migraineurs included.  You may not be able to change the world, but you can change your reaction to “snide remarks and whispering” from health professionals who should know better.

6- Know the system.

It helps to see things from the other perspective, not only because it reduces anxiety, but also because it allows you to see the bigger picture.  Here a few pet peeves of most pharmacists:

  • Sometimes, doctors make hasty prescriptions.  It’s the pharmacist’s duty to double-check before dispensing orders.  If they dispense a wrongful medication, then they are equally liable, particularly where narcotics are concerned.
  • When a doctor orders a medication, he operates in conjunction with the pharmacist.  The pharmacy technician is under no obligation to hand out drugs mindlessly, just because the physician requested it.  To do so would be to risk losing their license.
  • Dispensing early refills is punishable by fine, in addition to loss of license.
  • Pharmacists earn a degree from medical school, yet they feel that they are often treated like store clerks.
  • Working in a pharmacy is a high-pressure job.  You must be able to make quick decisions that affect the lives of others significantly.  That’s not an easy feat, considering bureaucratic intricacies, insurance policies, and conflicts between physicians and patients.


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Related reading:

Migraine Pop Quiz: How Well do you Understand your Headaches?

New Study Warns against Taking these Painkillers with Antidepressants

Should I Take Excedrin for Migraine Headaches?


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