In 1974, pharmacists and the pharmacy industry dealt with several important issues.
President Richard Nixon resigned from office, and was later pardoned by President Gerald Ford; boxers Muhammad Ali and George Foreman waged their “Rumble in the Jungle,” and consumers worldwide dealt with gasoline shortages.
Pharmacists and the pharmacy industry had its own issues to deal with in 1974, including a Supreme Court ruling on pharmacy ownership, the emergence of Rx sales as the primary source of growth in drugstores, and the fight to list possible side effects on drug labels.
As Drug Topics approaches its 160th anniversary, we will occasionally take a look back at where the industry has been, including battles won and lost.
The U.S. Supreme Court rules that individual states can decide who can and cannot own a pharmacy. Charles Savio, executive director of the New York State Pharmaceutical Society, commented: “We can now restore pharmacy to pharmacists-or make sure it is practiced more as a profession than a business."
NACDS President Robert J. Bolger warned that the court’s decision would empower state legislators to give “a select group the means to restrain trade and prevent competition in the retail drug market."
Elsewhere in the issue, U.S. Senator Abraham Ribicoff (D-Conn.) complained that the number of Drug Enforcement Administration agents assigned to drug diversion was inadequate. Thus, he said, the agency’s monitoring of drug abuse trends would amount to nothing more than a cruel hoax on the public.
This issue notes that Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice were all part of the new morality-as was venereal disease (VD). And the issue points out how pharmacists are fighting to halt the spread of the “plague of love.”
VD, which had once been virtually eliminated in the United States, had reached epidemic proportions by 1974. In California, 65% of people with VD were under the age of 26.
Fred Mayer, who was one of only a few pharmacists with a master’s degree in public health, urged his fellow pharmacists to take a more active role in public health issues. “Back in 1969, a group of militant pharmacists got tired of watching the national organizations do absolutely nothing,” Mayer said. “So a group of us-the pushers, movers, and shakers-got together and decided we were going to do something about it.”
Yes, this is the same Fred Mayer who has served on our editorial advisory board for decades.
Pharmacists identify nursing home pharmacy as one of the fastest growing segments of community pharmacy, predicting that nursing home service may become a $1 billion-a-year business by 1980.
“Some states are already conducting pilot programs to determine the exact savings [generated by utilizing pharmacists in nursing homes]. In Maryland, for instance, the state is testing a program to fix a definite per-person, per-day cost,” said Donald E. Baker, a pharmacy consultant. “It’s going to take time, but I feel we will eventually have a reimbursement program based on the type of drug distribution service used in a nursing home.”
The cover story focuses on pharmacists who had left the profession because they’d become fed up with the industry. “I was content with pharmacy as a career until I began working in it and realized that I was dealing 99% in business and 1% in pharmacy,” explained pharmacist Donald Harris, who eventually became a osteopathic radiologist. “I switched because I wasn’t involved in the science of pharmacology. Now, I am involved in the science of medicine.”
Meanwhile, pharmacist Oliver Hackett left the profession and became a dentist. “I just stood there day after day and pounded out prescriptions,” he said. “The people went out of pharmacy and so did the fun.”
One pharmacist asks: Is pharmacy burning?
Don Vaught, president-elect of the Illinois Pharmaceutical Association, lamented both attitudes and organizations he believed were undermining pharmacy. “A revival for the pharmacists of this country must be started and it must be of such magnitude that Elmer Gantry would be impressed,” Vaught wrote. “I don’t care if pharmacists yell power to the people, throw everyone out of office, and get most of our colleagues steaming mad-we’ll be on our way. Every place where prescriptions are dispensed should have at least one visit a year from a local pharmacy activist, accompanied by a nonlocal activist, so every pharmacist can be courted for the crusade.”
As the Soviet Union looked to adopt American-style reforms for its socialized pharmacies, the United States considered its own socialistic-type controls for drug production and distribution. Problems identified in the Soviet system included long waits for newly developed drugs, long waits for already-marketed drugs to be mass-produced, and the mysterious disappearance of some drugs.
“In theory, the Soviet system offers a cradle-to-grave healthcare paradise through the most economic use of the pharmaceutical industry’s resources,” the magazine stated. “But in practice, the results are dismal.”
According to a Drug Topics Rx survey, prescription sales in 1973 became the primary source of growth in drug retailing. Chain drugstores recorded a 23.5% increase in prescription sales, while independents saw a 6.7% increase.
Elsewhere, Kentucky passed a law mandating continuing education for pharmacists, becoming one of less than a dozen states with such a requirement. Another article advised drugstore owners how to generate sales from tobacco products.
“Put cigarettes out where people can see them and you increase sales,” explained Tom McMorrow, an executive with L&M. “Hide cigarettes and you decrease sales.”
As Drug Topics has done throughout its history, this cover story advocates that patients be warned of possible side effects from drugs, and that such warnings be placed on the prescription label.
“The patient should not be treated as a child, but, rather the physician should enlist his help in preventing the incorrect use of drugs,” the article read. “If the patient understands that all drugs have potential side effects-even extremely safe ones like aspirin-and that drug manufacturers must list all of them, even those of low incidence, then he would not suffer undue anxiety.”
In a letter to the editor, pharmacist Ralph Miller of Kansas suggested: “What we need is one organization led by a pharmacist to speak for all pharmacists.”
With computerized pharmacy operations in sight, pharmacists debate the questions: Who will be in the driver’s seat-the pharmacist or the wholesaler? How much will the new systems cost?
Elsewhere, a letter to the editor from the Wisconsin Student Pharmacy Association, chided the magazine for a previous article on how to attract black consumers to pharmacies.
“The article's approach, generally, to the black population is patronizing,” the letter stated. “Only when blacks are treated with dignity as equal members of our society will we be justified in accepting their consumer dollars.”
A panel of experts discussed the problems and potential benefits of price controls in government Rx reimbursement programs. Among the topics discussed were federal legislation advocating national health insurance and a maximum allowable cost proposal for government Rx reimbursements.
Elsewhere, another article posed the question: Why haven’t the chains really taken over? Some experts suggested that independent drugstores would be harder for the chains to replace than independent supermarkets were.
What is it really like inside a big discount-chain operation? Pharmacist Marvin Friedman provided an inside look.
“Pharmacists in high-volume chain stores usually have little or no contact with customers,” Friedman wrote. “One chain even has its pharmacists working in a glass-enclosed back room. If a customer wants to speak to a pharmacist, he must ask the clerk, who has the task of trying to tear the pharmacists away from his piled-up work to come out front.”
Are trusted employees robbing you blind? Experts provided more than 50 tips on how to stop or discourage employee pharmacy theft.
“Be aware of who has the combination to the safe: No one should have both the combination and the key to the front door. And, of course, don’t leave large amounts of money in the store overnight," one tip read.
Another suggestion read: “Use private detectives or a shopping service to monitor store activities once or twice a year (You can expect to pay $5 to $10 an hour for this valuable service)."