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Pharmacies deny consumers pain prescriptions

Consumers say they feel like criminals being forced to 'pharmacy shop'

ORLANDO, Fla. – Pharmacies everywhere are denying consumers their important prescriptions and the customers say they feel like criminals being forced to "pharmacy shop."

"I just lifted my shirt so they could see my incision" says Jim Ritenour.

In fact, Ritenour's done that twice in order to get his pain medication.

Ritenour says he dreads refilling his medication every month.

[WEB EXTRA: Local 6 interviews pharmacist | Local 6 interviews DEA agent ]

"I have to go and fight," he said.

Ritenour 's medication is Percocet. It is prescribed by his surgeon following three back surgeries.

Charlene Rubano's son suffers from ADHD and struggles every month to get his medication.

"Most pharmacies will not have his meds so I have to go from store to store," Rubano says.

His medications are also considered controlled drugs.

Patients who are not able to get their prescription filled with these drugs is a growing problem.

Prescription abuse was a huge problem in Florida. Widely abused controlled prescription painkilling drugs like oxycodone were illegally dispensed resulting in nearly 3,000 prescription drug overdose deaths.

Since the crackdown in 2013, deaths dropped by one-third and now there are 600 fewer pain clinics in Florida.

Local 6 asked the president of Florida's Pharmacist Association Michael Jackson, why people are having such a tough time getting their prescriptions filled?

Jackson said he believes that problem stems from the "pill mills" and pain clinics.

"The pendulum has swung in my opinion way too far to the right. We have got to find a way to bring it back to the center so we can balance the needs of the patient," he said.

Instead, those needs are instead being questioned by pharmacists; who are also under scrutiny by the DEA.

DEA Agent Jeff Walsh says legitimate prescriptions should be filled by pharmacist.

"DEA does not or ever will tell a pharmacist you can or cannot fill a prescription. The message I'd like to get out is the pharmacy owners and the pharmacist…just use the information that you have and make it an appropriate decision. If it's a legitimate script these people should have access to it," he said.

Unfortunately it's not that simple. Patients tell Local 6 that  they are forced to pharmacy hop until they get a script filled and are often told by pharmacist "they don't have it"

"That is not a DEA issue. That's between the pharmacy and the distributor," Jeff says.

Jackson said he doesn't agree.

"No I can't 100 percent agree with that. We are affected sometimes by inventory on many occasions and there is a supply problem so when you have the prescription drug wholesalers who are shipping drug product to pharmacies having to ‘monitor what they're buying very closely' there will be periodic shortages and inventory challenges because we can only receive what's sent to us and if what we order is not sent than we can't dispense what we don't have," he said.

Local 6 asked pharmacies about those limits.

Walgreens says "There are no quotas on what a store can dispense. Walgreens orders from wholesalers. Wholesalers may place limits on the quantity of controlled substances that are sent to our pharmacies."

Jackson says, "As a pharmacist we don't want to see people suffer."

But striking a balance between legitimate patients and those who are not...will leave some without.

Like Ritenour, who says he needs his medication and it's not an option.

"So I can literally make it through the day," he said.