The man in front of me was every pharmacist’s nightmare-or at least the type of pain in the neck we’d much rather do without.
The man in front of me was every pharmacist’s nightmare-or at least the type of pain in the neck we’d much rather do without. He had evidently had driven over 300 miles to fill a prescription for 240 tablets of oxycodone 30mg tablets.
I would like to think he had travelled from so far away because I had developed a reputation as one of the best pharmacists in California, and that it was his welcome involvement in his own treatment plan that led him to ask specifically for the “blue roxys.” But everyone reading this article knows better. The man who had been prescribed a medication appropriate for a terminal cancer patient looked physically fit enough to be a contestant in the next Ultimate Fighting Championship bout. It was obvious what was happening here. I was expected to be the “wholesaler” for this man’s drug dealing business.
One emotion ran through my mind as a looked at the prescription. Gratitude.
As I looked at the paper in front of me I was reminded of one of my most unpleasant experiences working for chain pharmacy. It involved a customer irate over being unable to refill a benzodiazepine 23 days early and a District Manager pressuring us to do just that.
The other pharmacist in our store was dependent on our employer for her visa to stay in this country, so it was I who stood up to look a firing in the face. The clash went on for days until I finally called the customer myself to diffuse the situation.
“She was much more reasonable about this than you were,” I told our District Manager after that phone call. The District Manager really . . . really, did not like hearing that.
I won that clash, but looking back on my quality of life since I left the Chain world, I can honestly say now I wish I’d left years before I did. I once held off on filling a doxycycline prescription for a 10-year-old boy until I could talk to the prescriber, and was rewarded for my concern for the child’s safety when the mother filed a complaint that the prescription wasn’t ready in the 15 minutes the company was promising at the time. The boy got a different prescription for something that wouldn’t permanently discolor his teeth and his mother got a gift card for her next shopping trip.
I could go on, and I bet a few of you could as well. Sometimes in pharmacy the right decision is to tell the customer no. But when those difficult moments came, I rarely if ever felt that my employer had my back.
Which was why it was thankfulness that was going through my brain as I handed the prescription back to the man who had traveled so far to see me and told him, “I’m going to respect you enough to tell you the truth. This prescription hits every single red flag of someone who’s dealing.
Now I don’t know if you are or not, and I don’t care, but if someone came in here from the State Board or the DEA and asked me why I filled this, I’d be hard pressed to give them a reason why.”
The man growled something and made his way back to the parking lot, and I went back to work, knowing I was able to fulfill my professional responsibilities and that the chances of having to explain myself to a corporate higher up were zero.
Yes, Thanksgiving definitely came a little early this year.
Of course it’s been a few years since I left the chains, and awareness of the nation’s problem with the misuse of prescription narcotics has grown tremendously. It’s possible things are different now. Are they? I’d love to hear your experiences about this.
David Stanley is a pharmacy owner, blogger, and professional writer in northern California. To contact him, firstname.lastname@example.org.