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Mar 22, 2013 7:15 PM

Medication crackdown hurts patients, pharmacist says

TUCSON - At least one pharmacy in Tucson is facing a limited supply of Oxycontin and Percocet.

The Medicine Shoppe said its distributor Cardinal Health notified them last week that they had reached their threshold, "they told me that they noticed a spike in October and November of last year so they cut me off on March 18. It doesn't make any sense to me," said Deborah Van Sant, a pharmacist who owns the midtown pharmacy.

According to Van Sant she has a strict policy when it comes to filling prescriptions. Van Sant said there is typically a 72 hour wait so she can do a background check, contact the doctor, request the patient's drug screen and she does not take cash for Oxycodone.

Van Sant said the process is necessary to be sure certain narcotics don't fall into the wrong hands, "yesterday, I had three people come in and all three people I declined to fill their prescription because of the verification process. Things just didn't add up."

The Drug Enforcement Agency works with wholesalers to monitor distribution. In a statement DEA said, "DEA does not set sales quotas for distributors. Under the Controlled Substance Act, distributors have an obligation to maintain a system in place that detects and reports suspicious orders to the DEA to prevent the diversion of control substances as governed by federal law and to conduct due diligence to ensure that the controlled substances are not diverted into other than legitimate channels. All DEA Registrants (physicians, pharmacists, distributors, etc) have an obligation to ensure that medications are getting into the hands of legitimate patients, and when they choose to look the other way, patients suffer and drug dealers prosper."

Van Sant says since Cardinal Health began limiting her supply is disrupting her business. She said legitimate patients are the victims of the crackdown, "it's depressing to me because I'm doing everything that I'm supposed to do as a prudent pharmacist, as a professional to determine whether or not that prescription is written for a legitimate medical purpose, yet I don't have the medication in my store to take care of my legitimate patients that need the medication."

Maria Haas is one of those patients, "limiting what is available to me is huge. It's the difference between functioning and not functioning and how well i'm going to function," she said. Haas suffers from chronic pain and said not being able to fill a prescription is humiliating, "have to keep coming back or you start a pharmacy crawl where you take your prescription from one pharmacy to the next till someone can fill it."

Haas said she hoped the DEA and wholesalers like Cardinal Health would consider patients like herself in their decision making, "we're the ones that are affected the most. People on the streets still have their drugs but we don't and we need them to live."

Cardinal Health did not return News 4 Tucson's request for comment.

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