How to win the pharmacy revolution

April 10, 2014

They play their company policy, you raise 'em one federal regulation.

Jim Plagakis“Where are you calling from?” I asked. She had a delightful accent, as soft and sweet as lemon meringue. “I am in Norway. I am calling where in the U.S.?” “Florida,” I told her. “Oh, Florida.” A pause. She had not called to discuss where we lived.

She was a pharmacist with a story as appalling as yours. Long hours, not enough help, the fear that the profession is lost. Add disrespect and jobs eliminated arbitrarily, and you know the rest.

“Why are you calling me?”

“We need help. We pharmacists have to do something, but we don’t know where to start. Soon, it will be too late.” She mentioned Drug Topics, my blog, David’s blog, and others. All discovered simply typing pharmacy in her browser window.

“You want a rebellion,” I suggested. 

She added, “A revolt that will get pharmacy back for pharmacists.” 

Revolution. It sounds like man-the-barricades perilous, but it is simply a fundamental change in power. What’s to be afraid of? It is called pharmacy. Pharmacists are supposed to be the ones with the muscle.

 

In union there is strength

You can organize, I guess. Like the 500 RPhs at CVS and Osco who are part of Teamsters Local 727. They don’t drive trucks. And the 8,300 CVS pharmacy professionals represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers. They don’t work at the all-you-can-eat buffet. 

The National Pharmacists Association, an affiliate of the United Steelworkers, is a real union that 1,100 Walgreens pharmacists in the Chicago area call home. 

Unions fight like hell if a member is being bullied. Legacy pharmacists who find themselves out of work would have done better if there had been a union in the picture.

The Teamsters would be all over the company when it fires Amy just because she is older and they want her spot for a 25-year-old robo-dispenser who will work for less and stay on his parent’s medical.

 

The feds or the corporation

Company policy is sacred in the retail drugstore landscape. Policy orders you to obey all pharmacy laws and regulations, federal and state. Then, when an accident happens, your boss can say, “Amy knows that we expect her to comply with all laws, Mr. State Board Guy.” That scraping noise you hear is Amy being dragged under the bus.

By the way, pharmacy regulations have absolutely nothing to do with managing the Prescription Mill. Wait times. The Drive-through. $25 coupons for transfer prescriptions. That’s company policy stuff.

Pharmacy laws have to do with the practice of pharmacy. Remember that?

How to fight the revolution

You really want in on a revolution you can win? You seriously want to play Che Guevara? Just pay attention. This is not a treacherous proposition. You have all the trump cards in this game. You just gotta play them.

Send a letter to your boss. Tell her that you will be following all pharmacy laws from here on out. Copy your state board and your company’s Top Cop, the Chief Compliance Officer. The CCO’s main job is to minimize the company’s exposure to lawsuits.

Then, start counseling your patients. Now, that is a perfect revolutionary act. Who is gonna be totally stupid and tell you not to counsel?

This won’t be easy. The company may advertise its pharmacist’s availability to answer any questions, but does it really want you using five whole minutes to counsel when the metrics sirens are whining and lights are flashing? 

 

You can win

But what about retaliation, Plagakis? I don’t want to be demoted to the float team.

Yeah, that’s a favorite penalty to use against pharmacists who think that professionalism comes before The Prescription Mill.

Relax, Amy. Company policy cannot protect the manager who tries to punish you for counseling.

Pharmacy law has taken a back seat to company policy for at least two decades, and, at every turn, when we had a chance to stop it, we were looking the other way.

Reboot, Amy. You are a well-trained medical professional. Act like one. Start counseling.

Jim Plagakislives in Sarasota, Fla. You can e-mail him atjpgakis@hotmail.comand check out his website at jimplagakis.com.