Magazine article Drug Topics

Walgreens Takes a Hit for Refilling Nonrefillables

Magazine article Drug Topics

Walgreens Takes a Hit for Refilling Nonrefillables

Article excerpt

A Walgreen Corp. pharmacist has charged that the nation's largest drugstore chain is turning up the heat on R.Ph.s who are reluctant to fill nonrefillable prescriptions before getting the refill go-ahead from the prescriber.

Walgreens has adopted a policy of filling nonrefillable Rxs before the prescriber is contacted for authorization, charged an Illinois R.Ph. who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of dismissal. The prefiled Rxs' are bagged and set aside to await approval. Insurance claims on the refills are allegedly filed before any authorization is received from the prescribers.

"It's bad medicine," said the pharmacist. "Adding a refill to a prescription you know is not refillable doesn't make any sense, yet this is Walgreens' policy. It applies to all classes of drugs, including controlled substances, anabolic steroids, potent antibiotics, and drugs for AIDS, whether they're maintenance, short-term, or once-in-a-lifetime Rxs. We can't assume every prescription will remain the same. The idea is that we can go back into the computer and make any changes, but lots of times those changes never get made because of the volume and the stress. Many times [unauthorized] refills have left my pharmacy because of the confusion the system creates."

Walgreens plans to roll out its policy nationwide using its new Pharmacy 2000 computer system within a year, said the pharmacist. The company is also providing computers to physicians' offices for the electronic transmission of Rxs and refill authorizations to drugstores.

"With the new software, we won't have any choice, because we won't be able to bypass the system," said the pharmacist. "We won't be able to pick up the phone and speak with the doctor's office. The nurse won't let you. She'll say, 'Use the computer,' and hang up. How can we communicate?"

Walgreens does have a policy of prefilling refills while the pharmacist is waiting for authorization, said spokesman for the Deerfield, Ill.-based chain Michael Polzin. However, those Rxs are to never be dispensed prior to getting the prescriber's approval. The prefilled prescriptions awaiting authorization are placed in a separate bin as a safeguard. "We feel that this is an efficient way to operate in a retail pharmacy and that it results in better service to the patient," he added.

It's a common practice for pharmacists to refill nonrefillable Rxs for medications patients have been taking for years, said David Brushwood, a pharmacy law expert at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, Gainesville. …

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