Dear Pharmacists … (a letter from the disgruntled masses)

Dear Pharmacists,

We see you standing there with your antiseptic smile.

We smile back and hand you our prescriptions.

We watch as your face distorts in front of us. The stigma of the prescribed medication takes over. Your face no longer has that fake smile, it is instead replaced with judgement.

Before you decide who we are and why we have to take medications you deem wrong, we want you to know a few things.

We are not just numbers in your system.

We are more than a voice on the other end of the phone, or the next person in line at the counter.

We are people, people that deserve respect, the same as you do.

With your glancing look and judgmental eyes. You have no idea what it’s like to live in our shoes.

How we suffer in silence and wish to ourselves daily that we didn’t have to take medications to function.

You have no idea what it’s like to be us. To have an invisible illness.

To seem fine to everyone, but inside the pain is so much, it almost hurts to breathe.

We don’t want to depend on these harsh medications to make it through the day. We have to.

Yet, you still look down on us, like we are all addicts or criminals, enjoying the roll we have been given in life.

Should we be sorry that we look too healthy to be sick? That we can paint ourselves up as normal on the outside to try and blend in, while we continue to suffer internally?

Dear pharmacists those medications you think we look too healthy to take are what allows us to walk up to that damn counter and turn in those prescriptions. Those same prescriptions you then “advise us” on how you don’t feel comfortable filling … just because you can.

And it’s legal. We may see specialists with years of training for our illnesses, but the law says that you, the pharmacist, can choose not to fill our prescriptions if you so decide.

Life is hard enough dealing with a chronic illness, now we have to worry if our medications might be denied?

It also makes us feel less than.

Less than a person, because now every time we go to our local pharmacies, we worry. Worry that our much needed medications are going to be denied on a whim. Whether for religious reasons or maybe you just “don’t feel comfortable” filling them.

How would you feel, oh dear pharmacists, if this was happening to you or someone in your family? Would you fight for your rights? Or would you walk away like a disciplined dog with your tail between your legs?

You see we are no different than you.

We have families, lives, careers, and people that depend on us. We deserve to be treated not as a prescription number, not as a drug, not as a condition, not as anything but the people we are … no less than you.

So next time you decide to look down upon someone or pass judgment on them because of the medications they take.

Maybe you should stop a moment and think about what it might be like to walk in our shoes, in our crutches, in our wheelchairs and in our lives.

You are not to judge who we are, you are to help us.

No one deserves to feel less than.

Maybe, just maybe think of that next time and show compassion instead of judgement.

You have the ability to help people … instead of hindering them.  Use it!

Words for thought,

-We The People

Photo Credit: tr0tt3r via Compfight cc

SA Smith

SA Smith has always loved the magical life. She is the bestselling Amazon author of FOREVER, her four part young adult paranormal romance series. She is an advocate for women of all shapes and sizes. Believing that we are all enough just as we are, and needing to spread that word far and wide. Having been diagnosed with CRPS over 12 years ago, SA also uses her writing to increase social awareness of the disease. Writing is her passion. She often tells friends that writing is a journey for her. It’s like spending time with friends. "I just follow my characters along on their adventures, like a fly on the wall, and see where they take me." SA currently lives in Florida with her best friend/husband and their one son.

  1. SA Smith

    I absolutely love that you took the time to post such a long and thorough reply. I wish all the pharmacists would take a minute and read what you have written here. With that said, I wish all the pharmacists in the country cared like you do. I have heard horror story, after horror story from invisible disease suffers around the globe repeating the same mantra “they don’t see us, they don’t understand us and they don’t care if we are in pain or not.” I too have had that same encounter with pharmacists from all over the USA, but this post changes it for me.
    Thank you for taking the time to let us know what’s going on behind the counter and in your mind. I love that you think of the person you’re waiting on as a relative, with feelings and worries just like yourself. We appreciate that, and hope that trend catches on with your fellow pharmacists.

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    First, I’m sorry that you had that experience. I assure you that not every pharmacist is like that.
    The look of judgement you describe, for me it’s something else – its my “game face.”

    When I’m given a prescription, I give it a quick glance over.

    Other than patient name and noting/verifying other pieces of information (like date of birth), Does it have the name of the medication in a strength and dosage form that it is available in, and the amount Im dispensing? If applicable, does it have refills? Does it have the provider’s name,address and phone number? Does it have the provider’s signature as well as the date it was issued? I’m also making sure it is legible if it is not typed/printed out.

    Believe it or not, sometimes the handwriting is “literally” chicken scratch.

    If it is not, we do have to verify with the provider office and document as stated in the State Board of Pharmacy (for Illinois, they are here: – this is who regulates us and states what a prescription should include, including what/how much corrections can be made at the pharmacy. If we don’t follow their rules, not only could our license be on the line, your life may be on the line too (due to us not following protocol). If the prescription is for a controlled substance, there must be certain elements present for the slip of paper that you handed me that makes it a legitimate prescription. Also, if its a controlled substance, sometimes I cannot make the changes at the pharmacy over the phone with your provider due to these regulations, and the provider has to re-issue the prescription

    For me, in Illinois, the controlled substance act is found here:
    Honestly, Im not a fan of the legal jargon either, but most of the time, Im able to decipher it. If not, I luckily know a lawyer to help me interpret the other stuff.

    Next, I am looking at your medication profile (AGAIN, not to judge), to ensure that what you are being prescribed will not interact with any of the other medications that you are currently taking.
    Believe it or not, drug interactions happen, and Im basically your last line of defense to ensure that nothing untoward happens to you.

    Also, believe it or not, while you are filling a prescription with me, I think of what I would say/do if it were my mother filling this prescription (if its a woman patient; for a male, I would envision my Dad or my brother).
    Other (good) pharmacists do this too.

    For those who have chronic pain, I think of what I would say/do if it were my husband, who has Fibromyalgia.
    Will the medication cause more constipation? Dry mouth? Balance issues? Changes in vision?
    Are they taking any other medications that would interact with it (here are those darn drug interactions again!)
    Im also making notes to consult with the patient on what to look out for with this medication if its a new addition to regimen.

    So don’t say that I am ambivalent or don’t care (because I DO).
    Don’t say, either, that I “have no idea what it’s like to live with pain” (because I DO – pain affects both me and my husband).

    Well, okay, in retrospect, I guess I DO look pretty serious when I have my game-face on, but I DO take medications and your health seriously too.

    Also, don’t think that I did NOT notice you commenting on every one else’s thoughts who were not pharmacists.
    (Because I did).

    I did get my Doctorate of Pharmacy at the University of Illinois.
    I chose pharmacy to help people.
    Yes, I could have become a doctor, but I felt that I had more contact with people in the pharmacy setting.
    In fact, while studying for my doctorate, studied with other nursing and medical students because our curriculum overlapped at times.

    I see you are also an author on a blog that’s Mission Statement reads: “The mission of our publication is to empower, elevate, educate and entertain by publishing stories on interpersonal relationships mainly covering issues facing women and girls in our world today.” – From:

    According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (, of the 282,000 pharmacists in the workforce, 57% were women in 2015. Dismissing pharmacists as “wannabe MDs” is very demeaning to the women who worked really hard to get where they are. This is not elevating them, and making a blanket statement like that doesn’t educate the public (read: women) either. We (as women) are shattering glass ceilings everywhere, including pharmacy (which used to be a male-dominated profession).

    This article can potentially deter young girls and women out there to become pharmacists as well (and we need more women in science and medicine as it is!)

    Who knows, they may surprise you and actually be GOOD pharmacists and not give you the judgmental look you so loathe.
    They may just might have their “game face” on too, in order to make sure your medication is safe for you to take.

    I really DO hope that you have better experiences with pharmacists, as well as finding some relief with your condition.
    I would just really appreciate it if you would acknowledge that there are good pharmacists out there and apologize for calling us “wannabe MDs”

    You worked hard to get where you are at. So did we. Let us not try to bash each other, but learn from this and bring each other up and above this.
    Thank you.

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    You’ve obviously had some bad experiences with pharmacists (probably much the same as pharmacists that have had bad encounters with actual addicts), but the beautiful part of being human is that we are not a monolith.
    As a pharmacist, we have to do due diligence to make sure we do not play a role in our patients developing addictions. Not only is there the fear of doing disservice to the patient, we also live in a litigation happy society. (Ex. A pharmacist was successfully sued for contributing to addiction because she filled a pain script 2-3 days early each month – at the patient’s request)

    So yeah. Those “looks” that you are referring to are probably a lot less judgemental than you are inclined to believe. It’s us (the good pharmacists, anyway) thinking at 100 mph:
    Is the patient opioid naive or no?
    There is no diagnosis code. I wonder what the indication is…
    If I ask the indication, I hope the patient doesn’t get offended.
    Is this dose appropriate?
    God, I hope he/she doesn’t fill at multiple pharmacies.
    Will the patient’s insurance cover this?
    If the copay is high, will the patient actually pay for it?
    Is it time to fill this?
    (Checks profile) This is littered with drugs that can interact with this medication.

    So yeah. It’s become a burden on both sides. Trust and believe, we are not actively trying to keep your medicine away from you unless it jeopardizes your health or our livelihood.

    Send a letter to the masses to the people that abuse prescription drugs.

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    This articles reads very one sided. Maybe we should understand both sides of the story. As a patient maybe you don’t understand that for every prescription I/we fill – my license, livelihood, and years of education, dedication, and hard work are on the line. When you drop off a prescription develop a relationship with your pharmacist, go to the same pharmacy each month, consult with your pharmacist & don’t treat us like our career is only about counting by 5s. While I will continue to act with empathy for every patient that I help, I also need to look out for myself. I don’t judge only the patient but I do use my clinical judgement on the entire scenario, and that’s what I’m trained to do.

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    Sorry you have received poor service however, wanna be MD’s is not the case…if I wanted to be a physician I would’ve gladly went to medical school. You shouldn’t classify all pharmacists as such and the same as pharmacists don’t classify patients’ in the same category!! The fact that you want your pharmacy to be afraid you shows more of your character than anyone else’s!

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    It is very easy to judge a Pharmacist, as most of the comments have. Do you ever take into consideration what Pharmacists have to go through? Maybe you should sit down and talk to one before showing your judgments, and see what we have to deal with on a daily basis. Pharmacists are not wanna be MDs. We hold a Doctorate in Pharmacy. Educate yourselves before insulting our profession. Every Pharmacists is not how you described, so you should be specific in your blog in regards to who treated you in such a manner. I’m not surprised as to how one-sided this reads, but the customer rarely puts themselves in a Pharmacists shoes.

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    I don’t know if I have ever posted on a blog like this, but I had no choice today. You represent the MASSES when you told this story. I suffer from full body CRPS. I’ve exhausted all the treatment options, with the exception of a SCS implant (not ready yet). I’ve tried every combination of meds known to man and have had my care transferred 3 times now as my doctors run out of ideas abd start to feel frustrated. Every month I walk into the pharmacy and wonder what I’m in for this month. That is, of course, if all the other parts came together seamlessly (which do want happen continuously either). I’m lucky enough to have a boyfriend who, even though he really was a police officer for a number of years, doesn’t need a uniform for people to think he still is one based on his demeanor, walk and appearance. A couple of months ago, the issue was with the pharmacy. I was in the car, out if medications because they didn’t order it and they were having issues processing it through insurance (even though everything was paid and we had billed insurance before). I’m not a wimp nor a coward..I am a fierce, strong woman, even in a bad day. So he goes in to the pharmacy and I wait..with the seat leaned back and tossing and turning in pain. We had been dealing with a specific pharmacist and at the expense of having to completely rehash everything again, he asked for the person we were working with. The female pharmacist insisted that although he was there, we could definitely speak to her because a he WAS in charge here. After going through hell and back and having enough horrible situations regarding my meds, he looked right at her and without missing a beat said..”Congratulations on being in charge! Since you ARE in charge you should know how to get Dan so I can speak with him.” And she did.
    This month (last week to be exact), I went to the pharmacy. My doc was out on medical leave for two days. This was Tuesday evening and I was told by the nurse that he would be back on Thursday. I understand that a lot of times, depending on the in call or replacement doc, sometimes they don’t feel comfortable writing a script like this. The on call,doc covering for my doc had no problems. Insurance was fine. No extra paperwork or forms needed and I thought we were golden. And then I got to the pharmacy. The pharmacist refused to fill it because it came from the on call doc and “the last time she filled it when it wasn’t my doctor, the hospital called and yelled at her to never ever fill it unless it is from my doc. So, I called the ER. They got the on call doc on the phone and she was angry that they wouldn’t fill it in his absence. The note in the computer to not fill it unless it came from my doctor came from the pharmacist as a reminder. I then called insurance to see if there a as an option for me on their side (I have worked with their clinical pharmacy numerous times). Insurance told me that they could see her attempt to run it through insurance and it was approved. Now I’m more frustrated and my significant other has shown up to support me and help out. I walk back in and tell her what insurance just said. I asked her why she would run it through if she wasn’t filling it. She told me I had to wait until my,doc came back (ie. 2 days without meds that I’ve been on for three and a half years). Went out to the car and just cried with my boyfriend. This process had taken over 6 hours by now. I decided that I would go back in one more time just to make sure they had my correct information and to het a concrete answer on when I should be hearing from them. She was on the phone and the other lady,knew better than to even try to help. After waiting for 15 minutes for her to finish up, she walked over to the counter and handed me my medications and said she decided to fill them. What made me walk back in there to verify my contact info (they had a bad habit of not calling when they said they would)? If I hadn’t, I would have suffered for two days for nothing. You and I both know she wasn’t going to proactively reach out to me to tell me she changed her mind. If I hadn’t been the squeaky wheel one more time that evening, things would have been harder..for no reason other than her refusing to fill it.

  8. SA Smith

    Thank you for leaving your story. I can feel how infuriated you are from your comment and my heart goes out to you. It is INSANE that we are treated this way just because of the medications we are prescribed. I don’t think the pharmacists get it, we don’t want to take these medications….we have to.
    I love that you stood up for yourself and contacted the pharmacy because you’re right. You might be the 1 in 50 that stood up for your rights as a customer and patient, and found another pharmacy. The sad reality is that the other 49 people said nothing and suffered in pain, because they couldn’t get their prescriptions filled.

    This needs to end.

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    I actually reported a pharmacist who accused me of doctor shopping. I brought in a prescription from my doctor, the same doctor I have been using for over 20 years. Because I had already gotten my monthly oxy filled he was hesitant to fill a hydro that was for breakthrough. It was written by the same doctor mind you. He went on to tell me that he couldn’t fill it, that the insurance had kicked it out and refused it, and these were the problems you run in to when you doctor shop. I informed him that the script was written by the same doc and I didn’t appreciate being profiled and accused of doctor shopping. He got nasty and stated, Well thats what happens with your kind. My kind, I am thinking to myself, I was livid!!! So I called the insurance company asking if there was a problem filling the script, of course there was not and no pharmacy had tried to fill it. So I reported the pharmacy and pharmacist to my insurance company right then. Then I went on Facebook to the Pharmacy’s Facebook page and sent them a message. They finally called me and I had to tell them what happened. The person I was speaking with said the Pharmacist admitted that he was probably wrong and shouldn’t have acted like that and said those things. I told them that chances are if he did it to me he is doing it to others. She asked if I would be frequenting the pharmacy any longer. My answer-NO!!! Her-what can we do to make you stay? I told her to move him from that location or fire him. Of course she said she couldn’t do that. I said I couldn’t’ or wouldn’t be going back there for anything!!!! Then she tried to offer me a gift card…..I declined told her it wasn’t about money!!!!!! So as far as I know he is still there and I haven’t been back. The name of the pharmacy you ask—-RiteAid

  10. SA Smith

    It’s a said state of affairs when the thought of picking up our medications becomes a stressful situation. We have enough to worry about, we shouldn’t have to be concerned at each refill point if today is the day they decide not to fill our medications. We already have a Doctor… thank you very much…just fill the damn prescription. Right?!

    Thank you so much Dori for sharing your experience. I have heard from several people with wide ranges of medications and illnesses having the same experience. This needs to stop.


  11. Dori Owen

    You go, girl!

    My pharmacy, CVS, actually fears me….LOL It’s exactly as you write for me, too. And, unbelievably, on more than one occasions, my pharmacist will argue with me about prescriptions. Sometimes I’ll be given the same med in two different doses–for different reasons. He believes it is HIS job on which to fill. And there have been a few times, out of nowhere, he’ll decide that an Rx is not part of my med regime. HE knows better than my psychiatrist, apparently. To be placed in the position of defending a legitimately prescribed med brings on such great anxiety for me. I’d move pharmacies, but outside of the one independently-owned pharmacy I used in another state–I have found them all to be wannabe MDs.

    I hold my best response in my back pocket and use it only when I’m frustrated and in that defense position. So that everyone in line can hear me, in my best outdoor voice, I say, “You see the meds that I take, you know my diagnosis. Do you REALLY want to have this conversation with me?”

    And, apparently, they don’t. My prescriptions are then filled. Fabulous blog. I think you represent more people than you know.


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