JP at large: A wart on our nose

October 10, 2005

I told my brother, "I'm not going to write about it." I was stubborn. "Too many people are writing about it." I was speaking about the refusal of a small group of pharmacists to fill legal prescriptions based on their uncompromising moral stance.

"But you have to write about it," my brother said. "Some pharmacists who read Drug Topics respect what you have to say."

I was steadfast. I was obstinate. I was not going to be moved. I was not going to go to this well. It had been overused and looked empty to me. I wavered when I read some op-ed pieces in major periodicals that made pharmacy look dreadful. I told my brother the subject was closed when he brought it up again. Then something happened to cause me to fall all over my objections. I couldn't get to the keyboard fast enough. I was blamed personally for the blatantly unprofessional conduct of others.

She waited patiently. I finally looked up and greeted her and made eye contact. She was a middle-aged woman who would have looked very attractive if she had been relaxed enough to smile. She was not happy. "How can you get away with this?" She held up a newspaper for me to see. It was the April 10 issue of the Boston Globe. She had circled a column in red. It was written by Ellen Goodman, whose work is syndicated all over the country. The subtitle was "Pharmacist vs. doctors and patients."

I did not have to read any further. I walked to the end of the pharmacy counter so we could talk privately. She followed me. "I'm not getting away with anything," I said. "I fill orders for birth control pills and I fill prescriptions for the morning-after pill."

"You need to put a stop to this," she said, scowling.

"What can I do?" I held up my hands to emphasize my helplessness.

"You are a pharmacist," she said. "It is your profession that is letting its members get away with this."

"But what can I do?" I shrugged, the impotent victim.

"You tell me," she said, "You're the pharmacist."

That's when the light bulb appeared over my head. "I can write about it." I briefly explained about this column. She did not say another word. She just nodded and then she finally smiled before she walked away.

OK, here's the deal. I am not going to get preachy. Too many people on both sides have been shooting their mouths off. I will just express myself and make a point as well as I can. Pharmacy has been getting some really bad press recently. Tony Auth, an editorial cartoonist with the Philadelphia Inquirer, is syndicated by the Universal Press Syndicate. His cartoon made me squirm. That's my profession he's commenting on. I have read opinion pieces that are uncomplimentary to pharmacy in USA Today and the New York Times. These columnists are syndicated all over the country.

The number of people who might conclude that pharmacy is a joke of a profession could number in the millions. I barely remember a basic law of physics: A particle, no matter how small, when put in motion, will accelerate until it is stopped. This particle is no longer small. It needs to be stopped, and pharmacy needs to stop it now. No one with a wart on the end of his nose likes being told about the wart on the end of his nose. I'm telling you: Pharmacy has a wart on the end of its nose.

THE AUTHOR is a community pharmacist. He lives in Stowe,Vt. Please e-mail him at jpgakis@hotmail.com
and send a copy to us at drugtopics@advanstar.com
. Also check out his new Web site at http://jimplagakis.com/