Patients diagnosed with conditions like anxiety and sleep disorders have become caught in the crosshairs of America’s opioid crisis, as secret policies mandated by a national opioid settlement have turned filling legitimate prescriptions into a major headache.
In July, limits went into effect that flag and sometimes block pharmacies’ orders of controlled substances such as Adderall and Xanax when they exceed a certain threshold. The requirement stems from a 2021 settlement with the US’s three largest drug distributors — AmerisourceBergen Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp. But pharmacists said it curtails their ability to fill prescriptions for many different types of controlled substances — not just opioids.
Independent pharmacists said the rules force them come up with creative workarounds. Sometimes, they must send patients on frustrating journeys to find pharmacies that haven’t yet exceeded their caps in order to buy prescribed medicines.
“I understand the intention of this policy is to have control of controlled substances so they don’t get abused, but it’s not working,” said Richard Glotzer, an independent pharmacist in Millwood, New York. “There’s no reason I should be cut off from ordering these products to dispense to my legitimate patients that need it.”
It’s unclear how the thresholds are impacting major chain pharmacies. CVS Health Corp. didn’t provide comment. A spokesperson for Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. said its pharmacists “work to resolve any specific issues when possible, in coordination with our distributors.”