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Jan 7, 2014 8:02 PM by Nathan O'Neal

Crack down on pain killers forcing shortage at pharmacies

TUCSON - A nationwide crackdown on prescription drugs is forcing a shortage of opiod prescriptions at pharmacies across the country and locally.

Abuse of opioid prescription pain-killers, such as Oxycodone, ranks 2nd for the caused of accidental death in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 15,000 deaths were cause by overdoses of the drug back in 2009.

In an effort to self-regulate and combat abuse of prescription drugs, many suppliers are scaling back on supplies -- leaving many local pharmacies without the drugs to fill prescriptions.

Travis Howell, 26, is paralyzed from the waist down and confined to where his wheelchair can take him.

"I have 18 open bed wounds, five of which I can feel," Howell said.

To cope with the daily pains, Travis depends on the roughly 200 Oxycodone pills he is prescribed by his doctor every two weeks.

"I know it's a lot... Sounds like a lot. But there's nothing else me and my doctor can do. We've tried everything from getting shots in my back to morphine -- which I found out I'm allergic to," Howell said.

On Monday, Travis tried to get his prescription filled at a nearby CVS Pharmacy but was rejected.

"All she could say was 'I don't feel comfortable' and hung up the phone on me," Howell told News 4 Tucson.

A CVS Spokesman told News 4 Tucson in a statement that its pharmacists consider many responsibilities when filling prescriptions.

The statement reads:

"Due to patient privacy laws, we cannot comment on a specific prescription that is filled for a particular customer. Generally speaking, our pharmacists consider a variety of factors as part of their corresponding responsibility under state and federal law when filling prescriptions for controlled substances. Based on their evaluation of these factors, pharmacists exercise their professional judgment in determining the appropriateness of filling the prescription."

Still, finding another location to fill Travis' needs is getting even tougher as the Oxycodone shortage hits other locations.

"There are patients out there not getting the medications they need because the supply is not there," said Greg Rogan, of the Medicine Shoppe, a locally-owned pharmacy.

It's a reality that all too obvious for Rogan, who said his shop has been cut off from its supplier of Oxycodone.

"We still get people calling everyday asking 'can we get it?' and can we fill their prescriptions... unfortunately, I had to stop taking any new pain patients on back in April," Rogan told News 4 Tucson.

As for Travis, he's hoping to keep the pain under control so he can live his life.

"If somebody comes and they need it, give it to them," Howell said.


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