Walgreen’s Policy on Opioids Leaked to the Press; MSNJ Previously Sought Disclosure
This week a pharmacist employed by Walgreens in Indianapolis leaked the national drug store chain’s policy on filling prescriptions for painkillers. Earlier this year when MSNJ members complained that their patients were being denied refills for pain medications, we sought the policy directly from Walgreens so that we could assist our members who specialize in pain management and other physicians who treat patients with chronic pain. Walgreens would not disclose it to us, or others, based on internal policy. Walgreens did, however, represent that it would reach out to local pharmacies that were refusing to refill prescriptions written by our members.
MSNJ wrote to the Board of Medicine and the Board of Pharmacy alerting them to the situation and expressing our concern about patients being denied access to pain medication. We subsequently convened a panel of stakeholders, including a DEA special agent, former Assistant U.S. Attorney, the Administrator of the NJ Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and physicians who are addiction and pain management specialists, at a Policy & Strategy Panel meeting to find common ground, balancing the risks of diversion and overdose against the legitimate medical needs of patients. We also met with the New Jersey Pharmacists Association in an effort to develop a common guideline on which physicians and pharmacists could agree. To develop a balanced guideline, we gathered information through a complaint form on our web site. This also allowed us ask Walgreens to reach out to local pharmacies that refused refills.
MSNJ is working with legislators and the Division of Consumer Affairs on legislation to improve the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. With increased access to and use of the database by pharmacies, physicians and law enforcement, there should be less fear of opioid dispensing by pharmacies. In the larger context of the aim to reduce drug abuse and diversion, MSNJ is also engaging with legislators about proposals for more consumer notice about drug disposal. We oppose proposals to mandate physicians to check the PDMP.
MSNJ is also working with the New Jersey Pharmacists Association to develop guidelines for pharmacy requests for information from physicians. If pharmacies must ask for information, physicians must have predictability on the scope and triggers of the requests.
MNSJ is also partnering with the DEA to educate our members on best practices for opioid prescribing. Please be sure to attend this free event!