Pharmacy Chains Face Lawsuits For Refusing to Fill Opioid Prescriptions

F.J. Thomas

Providence, RI ( – The The The opioid epidemic has long been center stage of the focus in healthcare, resulting in changed legislation which opened the door for a multitude of lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies, along with criminal charges against a massive number of doctors and other health professionals in the last few years. That said, it appears that the American Medical Association (AMA), is attempting to turn the tide of the direction of prescription practices. In June, the AMA urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to revise their guidelines in the 2016 Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain. In the aftermath of the heated request, two women in their forties from opposite sides of the country have filed National class action lawsuits against pharmaceutical giants CVS, Caremark, and Walgreens and Costco.

Both lawsuits allege that the pharmacy giants have violated the American with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the anti-discrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act by refusing to fill a valid, non-fraudulent opioid prescription.

On August 6th, 48 year old Edith Fuog from Florida, who suffers from multiple disorders, filed the lawsuit in Providence, R.I. According to the documents filed, in 2011 Fuog was diagnosed with Stage-1 breast cancer and underwent treatment and reconstructive surgery. As a result of complications from the surgery, Fuog developed Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and subsequently Vancomycin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (VRSA). In 2014, Fuog developed Guillian Barre Syndrome and Parsonage Turner Syndrome. Parsonage Turner Syndrome is a complex neurological disorder that includes severe sudden onset of shoulder pain that amplifies quickly. Additionally, Fuog says she suffers from Trigeminal Facial Nerve Neuropathy, arthritis, Hashimotos Thyroid Disease, Lupus, and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a form of chronic pain.

Fuog was under the care of pain management physicians as a fully compliant patient. Initially, she was prescribed Dilaudid and Fentanyl pain patches. She was later switched to Morphine in 2019. In 2017, Fuog went to fill her prescription at CVS and was denied, citing the release of the 2016 CDC prescribing guidelines. Per the complaint, Fuog went on to attempt filing her opioid prescriptions at 2 dozen other CVS locations only to be told that they could not be filled due to the guidelines, or the drugs were out of stock.

Forty-three year old Susan Smith filed a class action lawsuit in her home state of California earlier this month against Walgreens and Costco. According to the complaint, Smith has a history of Epilepsy and grand mal seizures that resulted in head trauma and debilitating migraines. In 2010, Smith had a seizure that resulted in a severe car wreck and trauma injuries. As traditional medications were ruled out as an option due to allergies, Smith underwent brain surgery where testing revealed she had Mesial Temporal Lobe Sclerosis of the brain. Although surgically treated, she was still left with near constant migraines that were severe, along with nausea and vomiting.

Per the lawsuit, Smith claims that the only medication that gave her relief was morphine, which she had been prescribed since 2011. The lawsuit also contends that even with physician oversight and compliance, along with providing extensive paperwork to have her prescription filled, Smith experienced extreme difficulties in having her prescription filled, and often times was refused by the pharmacy.

Many workers in the healthcare industry are leery of prescribing opioids in any case that isn’t exactly by the standards that the CDC has issued. The Rhode Island case references a letter issued by the Alaskan Board Of Pharmacy which warned against over refusals to fill an opioid prescription due to the new guidelines.

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