This information describes the Anesthesia Pain Service guidelines for pain medication at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK).
The pain doctors at MSK’s Anesthesia Pain Service are available to help control your pain by prescribing and adjusting your pain medications. We treat pain with medications such as opioids (also called narcotics), which are controlled prescriptions. We also do procedures such as nerve blocks or implanting pain devices.
We must monitor you and these medications closely for your safety and for legal reasons.
Guidelines for Medications
- Only your pain doctor should write your prescriptions for pain medication, even if you have other doctors.
- Take your pain medication only as instructed by your pain doctor. If you need any changes to your pain medication, call our office. If another doctor adjusts your pain medication, you must call us to discuss the change by the next business day. Do not change the dose without speaking with your pain doctor or nurse. Please see “Getting Your Prescriptions” for more information.
- Do not suddenly stop taking your pain medication. If you suddenly stop taking opioids, you may have withdrawal symptoms (i.e., nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, sweats). If this happens and you have no pain medication, go to the closest emergency room or to the MSK Urgent Care Center.
- The MSK Urgent Care Center is located on the 1st floor of Memorial Hospital. The closest entrance is located at 425 East 67th Street, between First and York Avenues.
- Keep track of when you will need a new prescription for your pain medication.
- Keep all appointments with your pain doctor. If you are getting opioids from us, we will need to see you in our clinic once a month.
- Keep your pain medication in a safe place away from others, especially children and pets. You may need to keep it in a locked box.
- Take at least a 1-day supply of your pain medication with you when you leave your home.
Getting Your Prescriptions Between Appointments
All prescriptions are now sent electronically (through the Internet) to your pharmacy, according to New York State law. You must tell us which pharmacy to send the prescription to each time. We are no longer able to call these prescriptions into your pharmacy.
To get a new prescription, call your pain doctor at least 4 to 5 business days before you are out of medication. Do not call the day you are out of medication because we need time to process your request.
There are several steps that happen once you call your doctor to request a prescription. First, we need to check a state-wide registry before writing the prescription. If we have questions about how you are using the medication, we may need to call and speak with you before the prescription is written.
Then your doctor will need to sign off on the new prescription; this may not be done until the end of the day. Once your doctor signs off on the prescription, it is sent to your pharmacy electronically.
Once your pharmacy gets the prescription, they have to check with your insurance to be sure it is covered. They will let you know of any co-pay that you may owe. Sometimes your insurance company will have questions before they will allow the pharmacy to process the request. Your medication may need a prior authorization from the insurance company. It may take 24 to 72 hours to get the approval or denial. If it is denied, your medication will need to be changed.
Finally, your pharmacy may need to order the medication because they may not have it in stock.
If you have questions about your medication, please call the Pain Service at 212-639-6851, Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. When you call, we will ask you for the name and dose of your medication, the pharmacy that you want the prescription sent to, and your phone number so that we can contact you if we have any questions. Please note that if you call after 3:00 pm, we may not be able to return your call until the next business day.Back to top
Lost or Stolen Prescriptions or Medication
It is important to keep track of your pain medication and prescriptions. If you lose your prescriptions or if your medication is stolen:
- Report this to your local police station. Then, fax the police report to us at 212-717-3206 or bring it to us in person.
- You may need a clinic appointment.
- Your prescription plan may not pay for your replacement medication. If it does not, you will be responsible for the cost.
Contacting the Anesthesia Pain Service
If you have questions, need to speak with someone about your pain control, or want to make an appointment, call 212-639-6851, Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. We will ask you to leave your phone number so that we can call you back.
It is best if you call earlier in the day, so we can review your records or speak with your doctor, if needed. We will do our best to call you back the same day or the next business day.
If it is after 4:00 pm, during the weekend, or on a holiday, and you are having an emergency such as severe pain, page us at 917-314-3477. You can also go to your local emergency room or come to the MSK Urgent Care Center.