The pharmacist as author

April 10, 2014

How does it feel to have your brainchild critiqued by an audience of your peers? Dennis Miller gives us an idea.

Dennis MillerSo many times I’ve heard pharmacists say (or I’ve seen in their blog posts) that they desperately hope another pharmacist would someday write a book for the general public describing the deplorable working conditions endured by chain pharmacists, including the inherent risk to the public from serious mistakes made at dangerously understaffed pharmacies. You’d think that most pharmacists - especially chain pharmacists - would favorably receive a book that details pharmacists’ working conditions, right? Turns out, the answer is yes and no.

At the time this article went to press, reviews had been posted at Amazon.com for my first book (Pharmacy Exposed: 1,000 Things That Can Go Deadly Wrong at the Drugstore), which became available in August of 2012. I guess that’s a reasonable number of reviews. By comparison, David Stanley had had 51 reviews posted up to that point for his first book (Why Your Prescription Takes So Damn Long to Fill) , which became available at Amazon in November of 2010.

Of the 20 reviews of Pharmacy Exposed posted at Amazon.com,13 are positive (the reviewer gave the book four or five stars), four are neutral (three stars), and three are negative (one or two stars). The most consistent criticism of my first book is that it is too long (753 pages) and that it includes some repetitive material.

 

 

Too darned long

Before the publication of Pharmacy Exposed, I didn’t think it was possible to use the “pharmacy as fast food” analogy too often when addressing an audience consisting largely of pharmacists, especially chain pharmacists. Maybe it’s hospital pharmacists who don’t like my use of that analogy.

It turns out that very few pharmacists who posted reviews on Amazon.com took issue with my description of working conditions in the chain drugstores. But a significant number of pharmacists took issue with the length of the book. It was as though pharmacists were more interested in critiquing my book from an editing standpoint, rather than from the standpoint of whether my description of chain drugstore working conditions is accurate and whether the general public urgently needs to learn about the dangerous conditions that are too common at chain drug stores.

Most of the negative reviews came from readers of the Kindle electronic version rather than from readers of the paperback version. I asked myself (or rationalized?), “Does the experience of reading the electronic Kindle version strike people as more ephemeral, in comparison to the experience of having the massive 753-page book in one’s lap?”

In addition to examining the working conditions for pharmacists in chain drugstores, Pharmacy Exposed discusses a wide range of pharmacy issues. In response to the reaction I received for my first book, I decided to expand specifically upon issues related to chain drugstores. The result is my second book, Chain Drug Stores Are Dangerous: How Their Reckless Obsession with the Bottom Line Places You at Risk for Serious Harm or Death. Weighing in at 630 pages, this new book is mostly about what has been termed “McPharmacy” or “The McDonaldization of pharmacy.” I’ve added about 200 new pages of material on chain drugstores that were not in my first book.

 

Hurrah and bah

I want to share two posts from Amazon.com that illustrate the range of reviews I received for my first book. Again, while most of the Amazon reviews are favorable, in the spirit of fairness I’m providing samples that show both the positive and the negative.

The pharmacist who posted the positive review said Pharmacy Exposed was as important as Upton Sinclair’s book The Jungle, a historic exposé of conditions in the meatpacking industry published in 1906. Here is a portion of this pharmacist’s review:

“Never in my 36 years as a pharmacist have I read a single book that is as comprehensive, in my own experience truthful, and as eloquent about working conditions in pharmacy as this one. This book deserves the immediate attention of people in many areas: pharmacy professionals, federal and state regulators, state boards of pharmacy, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, Congress, and most important, the consuming public. I have no vested interest in this book except a professional one. I hope, and pray, that it receives the widest possible circulation and that it results in reform the same way the The Jungle did, for, sure as I am writing this, today's pharmacy is a jungle that desperately needs to be tamed.”

 

Here’s another review on Amazon posted by a pharmacist whose opposing view of Pharmacy Exposed was dripping with disdain. (Did both pharmacists read the same book?)

“Incredibly repetitive and dull. Each of the author's points was stated AND repeated multiple times in subsequent chapters. I got it the first time, buddy. I also found the content overly simplistic. I realize he was trying to appeal to a large audience, but as a pharmacist, I learned nothing new, and I highly doubt many lay people will find the book interesting or compelling enough to stick with. Don't give up your day job, Dennis.”

This second pharmacist identified himself as “KM, PharmD.” I’ve speculated that he surely can’t be a chain pharmacist. Maybe he’s climbed the corporate ladder to the dark side and is criticizing my book in defense of chain drugstores.

I invite Drug Topics readers to take a look at my new book and post a review at Amazon. I worked on both books for a total of nearly 30 years, and I can state that, yes, the negative reviews do hurt. Nevertheless, I’m always interested in receiving feedback, either through an Amazon review or directly at dmiller1952@aol.com. Fire away!

Dennis Milleris a retired chain-store pharmacist living in Delray Beach, Fla. He welcomes feedback at dmiller1952@aol.com.Chain Drug Stores Are Dangerousand Pharmacy Exposedare available at Amazon.com.