Local Walmart Rolls Back Buprenorphine Decision



Great news! After my blog on Sunday, the pharmacy in the North Wilkesboro, NC Walmart decided to stock buprenorphine products again.

I am grateful to my faithful readers. I suspect some of you know people, or are people, with enough clout to get Walmart’s attention. I know the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly journal is planning a story about pharmacies refusing to stock buprenorphine, and talked with Walmart officials. Other readers contacted people they knew, and raised awareness about this issue.

All day yesterday I got email from people who were outraged about my local Walmart’s decision not to stock buprenorphine. By now, it’s clear that it was a regional decision and not a dictate from corporate Walmart.

The head of media relations called me yesterday afternoon, saying “the problem was fixed,” and that everything was fine. I wanted details, but she didn’t have any for me. I told her blog readers in other parts of the country said their local Walmarts were not stocking buprenorphine products. I feared she didn’t recognize the extent of the problem, but she kept saying the problem was fixed and she thanked me for bringing to Walmart’s attention.

I wanted to make sure, so I called my local Walmart again yesterday evening. I reached the pharmacist on duty, and asked him if it was true that Walmart was going to stock buprenorphine products again. He said yes, they had to, and that they had a “big long meeting today” about this issue. To make sure I understood, I asked, “So if I write a prescription for a buprenorphine product, and my patient brings it to Walmart pharmacy, will you fill it?”

“Yes,” he said. “Send him right over.”

This is the best possible outcome. I’m happy this issue is resolved, and I glad I won’t have to boycott Walmart (they have great pies).

However, I’m still curious about why the original decision was made not to stock the product, and why it was reversed.

I’m eager to see the article in Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly.  http://www.alcoholismdrugabuseweekly.com/

19 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Rachel Picard on July 26, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    Way to go! Rachel Pickard

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. Posted by Stephanie Almeida on July 26, 2016 at 2:41 pm



  3. Great Job. I tried to reach out to my local paper (the Boston Globe) they had an interesting article today about the consequences of pain management contracts and unfortunately for the patient discussed in the article how pain management contracts led to a deadly overdose.



  4. It is so good to hear some good news after hearing so much negative news these past months.


  5. Posted by Nick on July 27, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    While I wholeheartedly disagree with a decision not to stock any buprenorphine products at a pharmacy, I understand what led to it. The area has a troubling pattern of buprenorphine use to maintain dependence instead of being tapered to actually treat the dependence and help the patient. A pharmacist should be able to refuse prescriptions that are being prescribed and/or used inappropriately without having to fall back on a blanket “we no longer stock it” statement. Ensuring that patients who are being gradually tapered to treat dependence or bring treated for pain have a harder time getting their medication is not an acceptable way to lessen the abuse.


    • Aha!! You may be on to something. Maybe these pharmacists think, like you do, that buprenorphine should be tapered, instead of being used as a maintenance medication. When it first came out, I think many of us hoped we could taper people off of it quickly. However, more & more studies are showing that the patients who stay on buprenorphine do the best. By best, I mean not dying, no illicit opioid use, can hold down a job, finish school, be a good parent, etc.
      People who taper have a high relapse rate. Relapses can be deadly. Our opioid overdose death rate is already too too high. Let’s not make it worse by insisting opioid use disorder be treated like a short-term illness, rather than the chronic disease that it is.
      Having said that, patients are different, and taper may be appropriate in selected patients. But it’s not a quick process and it takes time to get the counseling and make life changes.
      Would you tell a diabetic, who is not eating right or exercising, that they should taper off metformin, since if they changed their behavior, they would not need meds?


  6. Posted by Whitney on July 27, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    Yay!!!! I am so glad that someone finally did something g about this! We are forever grateful to u for taking a stand for those of us who actually want to treat out addiction! And get better! I can never than u enough!!!


  7. Posted by Omar Manejwala on July 27, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    Thank you for your leadership on this it makes a difference.

    Omar. Omar S. Manejwala, M.D. Web | Amazon | IndieBound | iTunes | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook| Google+ | YouTube


  8. Posted by Beau Ellingson on July 28, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    I’m a MMT patient and have been since 1985.I was an Army medic and then worked on the civvie side for some years. Everyone I knew who used is dead now. I am 55. Methadone has kept me safe. Thank you for your blog as I’m seeing some disturbing trends in treatment here in Arizona. Available state and federal funds have attracted some dubious businesses who care only about the $ and state funded patients are getting good care, but at the expense of people who are private pays. Hopefully things will get better as this opioid problem is far out of control in America.


  9. I went in this same Walmart the other day to get my prescription filled, and they said that they don’t take prescriptions from the doctor that I go to. I don’t understand why this is


  10. Posted by Jessica on July 28, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    Great job Jana you are amazing standing up to Walmart! They have no idea how many people it affects stopping he sell of the medicine! Not just the patient but the patients family too!


  11. I am a recovering addict myself, and where I live its literally a “pain in the ass” to find your medication. I am from Princeton, WV and my local wal mart doesn’t carry anything but suboxone films. I have a known allergy to Narcan documented by a few different doctors. I have asked a few local pharmacies to order the medication for me but always get told “NO”. These people treat addicts like they are the scum of the earth, but when it could just as easily be them. I would hate to see someone have to go through addiction but the way some of these people treat us maybe thats exactly what they need. I have to travel an hour one way to fill my prescription, when I should be able to get it at Kroger, Wal Mart, wal Greens or where ever but all they have are films, and other brand names. I believe it’s all to do with money and behind the scene deals. I got addicted to pain medications because I was the victim of a brutal mugging. I had over 60 stitched in my mouth, my jaw shut, my lip was in 2 pieces and the doctor over prescribed my pain meds and I didn’t know any better until it was to late. Not only do I suffer from addiction but also PTSD, I also have a fear of the public, and extreme anxiety. I believe people should be able to get what ever medication they need for a fair price , but unfortunately our system doesn’t work like that anymore. Our medical system needs a complete overhaul to be honest.


  12. Posted by Anthony on December 21, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    This is what’s currently going on in North Port Florida Walmart and I find it ridiculous that the pharmacist told me this medicine is only for pregnant women now which is weird that it’s not safe for a man to take with no baby but it’s safe for a woman with a baby to take


  13. Posted by Liam S on June 9, 2018 at 3:51 am

    Apparently the same thing is happening in Enid, OK. I’ve been on 8mg Bupe tabs for several years for my successful recovery while also helping my RA pain. I’ve had my prescription filled at this particular local WM for the past 5 years. After several close calls with what I’m told was supplier stock issues, my pharmacist (who has been an advocate for me and recovery in general) is now unable to have any of her Bupe orders fills. Upon making an order for any Bupe generic formula or brand, her order is deleted! Whether by the WM home office or their supplier (McKesson), I don’t know. But the fact remains…WM is no longer suppling my med and my pharmacist’s only solution is to call other pharmacies to verify if they carry and/ or can order my script. And, according to a WM corporate rep with whom I spoke today, I’m told that WM in “backing away” from offering ANY opioid products…pain meds, recovery meds, etc… I don’t have to explain how vital my Bupe med therapy is to me for simply staying alive, literally. WM (and possibly McKesson) is no less than jeopardizing my sobriety and my life. I understand the opioid crisis and agree it must be appropriately contained…but blanket policies that jeopardize recovering addicts? Wow.


    • That’s awful! Though I don’t see how they can “back away” from stocking essential medications and still be a pharmacy…I will inquire.


  14. I had to fill my prescription of 45, 2mg Subutex at Walmart in Winston Salem. Instead of Marley Drugs $56, I just paid $166. Yeah, they’re filling the prescriptions, but charging so much it’s impossible to get.


  15. Posted by Pete on October 14, 2019 at 1:48 am

    Wal mart pharmacy manager “X” in Rogers,AR refused to fill my prescription 2 weeks ago… and then after having my doctor call he lied about suboxone being on back order. 30 min later when I went to retrieve my prescription to go to another pharmacy a nice young girl apologized and filled it. They are purposely putting road blocks and delays to frustrate suboxone patients into going somewhere else. I’ve been going through this for 5 years.


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